Airman 3rd Class Medical Reform
AOPA, EAA and other organizations have been pushing the FAA for the past several years to provide an exemption to the requirement for pilots flying under part 91 under certain conditions to hold a valid FAA – issued pilot third-class medical certificate. This pilot medical reform has now become law, as of July 15, 2016. The new medical requirements posted by the FAA are referred to as “BasicMed”. The new BasicMed program becomes effective May 1, 2017.
The pilots who will be able to take advantage of this change would be required to get a one-time medical certificate unless they have obtained a pilot medical certificate since July 15, 2006. Pilots would still be required to visit a doctor every 4 years, but this exam can be given by any state-licensed physician. During this visit, you would need to bring an FAA form and it must be filled out and signed by you and the doctor. A notation must be made in your pilot logbook referencing this doctor visit and the form should be kept in your logbook as well. You must also take a free online training course in aeromedical factors every 2 years. There are some additional conditions in this law. For more details, visit the AOPA Pilot Medical Reform FAQs page.
This law has become more controversial following the German Wings crash involving a suicidal co-pilot who falsified his medical information and ignored his doctor’s orders not to fly. Of course this scenario involves an airline operation with a commercial crew, which is very different from the type of flying and pilot qualifications that would be included in this proposal. I thought I would list a few pros and cons on this proposed regulation change as food for thought and see what those of you who have a vested interest in this have to say.
Here is a summary of some of the key points contained in the new law:
- Pilot must hold a valid driver’s license
- The new privileges apply to VFR, IFR, day and night flight.
- No flight outside the U.S except with permission from the destination country
- No flight for hire or piloting for hire
- Pilot must complete a free, online FAA aeromedical course within the previous 24 calendar months
- Airplane – max 6 seats, max takeoff weight 6,000 lbs. Max 5 passengers carried
- Max altitude – below 18,000′ MSL (full-time supplemental O2 requirement)
- 250 knots maximum indicated airspeed
Here are some of the pros:
- From my experience with one of my students who has flown safely for the last several years – He had a kidney stone 10 years ago. He was treated successfully by his doctor who stated that the stone was completely gone and there were no further problems. My student reported this on his medical form each time. After 10 years, the FAA suddenly decided they wanted more documentation and they withheld the renewal of his medical. My student immediately submitted detailed reports from his doctor and the FAA didn’t get to his file for 8 months. Except for a few dual flights, his Cirrus SR22 Turbo sat in the hangar. After a quick review 8 months later, the FAA immediately issued the certificate and indicated it was not an issue. If my student was flying under the new reforms, he would not have had to endure this ridiculous delay.
- The reduction in medical certificates to process by the FAA would free up the FAA a little to work on the special medical cases and speed up the process of catching up.
- This will save some pilots the cost and time in taking the medical exam so often.
- Pilots will have the convenience of visiting their personal physician every 4 years instead of an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)
- An exemption already exists for Sport Pilots and there has so far been no pattern of problems with it.
Here are some of the cons:
- Some passengers may be put at risk with a pilot not diagnosed in a timely fashion with a medical problem that he or she is unaware exists.
- From a money standpoint – some Sport Pilot Training centers may lose future students to Private Pilot schools as the relaxed medical rules are a big draw for Sport Pilots.
- Aviation Medical Examiners who give a lot of third class medical exams will lose some business – not a problem for pilots.
- Some pilots using illegal drugs may go undetected for a longer period of time.
Let me know what you think about this. Post updated 01-24-2017. Steve Shaner