Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EAA, AOPA Pressing Forward With Third-Class Medical Exemptions

February 28, 2012 – EAA and AOPA are continuing to press forward with their joint effort to expand the use of a driver's license and medical self-certification in lieu of an FAA third-class medical certificate, with a goal of submitting a formal exemption request to the FAA in March.

The GA organizations remain steadfast in their effort, which was formally unveiled at the AOPA Summit last September. EAA and AOPA have petitioned the FAA numerous times over the past 25 years regarding changes to the third-class medical requirements. Those efforts have resulted in the extension of the third-class medical certificate duration for pilots under age 40 and use of a driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate for pilots operating under sport pilot certificate privileges. The FAA, however, has repeatedly failed to act on petitions seeking expansion of the driver’s license/self-certification concept to broader segments of general aviation.

Petitions for similar rulemaking submitted by individuals to FAA have also failed, including the denial earlier this month of a 2009 petition by David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield of Friendly, Maryland. Wartofsky's petition requested that the driver's license medical certification be expanded to private pilots flying aircraft of 6,000 pounds or less. In its letter of denial to Mr. Wartofsky, the FAA expressed unwillingness to support expansion of driver's license medical certification to complex aircraft, including multiengine, turboprop, turbojet, and helicopters that fall within the 6,000-pound threshold proposed under his petition.

"Mr. Wartofsky's petition did receive more than 1,000 supportive comments, which is very much in line with EAA member input telling us that the expansion of driver's license medical self-certification privileges is a key issue for aviators," said Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations. "We are working with AOPA to finalize our request for an exemption, which is quite different from a petition for rulemaking, and hope to have it completed and ready to submit in March."

The EAA/AOPA exemption request proposes to expand the driver's license medical beyond the sport pilot certificate to those pilots flying recreationally in fixed-gear aircraft of no more than 180 hp, with a maximum of one passenger in daytime VFR conditions. The request also seeks to boost safety by creating an online educational course addressing medical self-assessment that pilots would be required to complete to qualify for the exemption.

It is estimated that the exemption would encompass more than 50,000 aircraft in the existing fleet. It would allow pilots to fly those aircraft, with which they are most familiar, without the need for a third-class medical certificate provided they meet the requirements and limitations of the exemption. That would maintain GA safety while expanding aeromedical knowledge and resources for pilots.

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