Driver's License Medicals Rejected (Again)

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AOPA says it won't give up trying to convince the FAA to accept a state driver's license as proof of medical fitness to fly with a recreational permit. Recreational pilots are restricted to fixed-gear, 180-hp, four-place aircraft flown day VFR only. AOPA argues that the difference in performance and weight between the recreational permit privileges and those allowed under the new sport pilot permit (which allows the driver's license medical) are not enough to continue requiring a third class medical for the recreational certificate. "Too many healthy pilots have lost their medicals, yet they could still fly simple aircraft like Cessna 172s safely," AOPA's VP of government affairs noted in a news release. "We're going to find a way to make that happen." Cebula said AOPA will use medical data from sport pilot records to press its case. In the past, he said, the FAA has rejected the driver's license medical because it lacked evidence to prove that relaxing the standards was safe.

AOPA also wants to open the door to flying for a large segment of the former pilot population that doesn't qualify for even the sport pilot permit. They're pilots who, for whatever reason, have lost their medicals in the past. Even though they have driver's licenses, the FAA won't allow them to fly as sport pilots unless they can requalify for a third class medical. AOPA says they should be able to get a letter from their personal doctors stating that they are unlikely to be incapacitated within the next 24 months, but the FAA says that could "place licensed physicians in the position of unwittingly declaring someone fit for flight."