FREDERICK, MD. – A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) third-class medical exemption, reserved for sport pilots for the past decade, to a larger pilot population and more types of aircraft.
The Senate measure, introduced by Sens. John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) on March 11, 2014, mirrors the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, which was introduced in December 2013 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) petitioned the FAA in 2012 to expand the exemption to cover additional small aircraft, but the FAA has not been on any fast track to do so. Therefore, AOPA has sought the assistance of Congress.
Boozman, Roberts, and Moran all are members of the Senate General Aviation (GA) Caucus. With this bill, they join House colleagues Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and GA Caucus Co-Chair Sam Graves (R-Missouri), who introduced the House bill that now has 52 cosponsors.
Currently, most pilots who fly recreationally must undergo an FAA medical exam every two or five years, depending on their age. They also must assess their fitness to fly before each flight and have their skills evaluated by a certificated flight instructor every two years. With passage of this legislation, pilots will continue to assess their own fitness to fly and undergo regular flight reviews with a flight instructor, just as they do today.
The exemption would be expanded to include noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats. Pilots would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, fly at altitudes below 14,000 feet MSL, and at airspeeds no faster than 250 knots.
More than 16,000 overwhelmingly favorable comments were filed on the original petition during the public comment period.