Australia Relaxes Medical Requirements

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Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has announced liberalized flight medical standards for private and recreational pilots that include a 3,200-pound maximum weight for aircraft and allow pilots to register their medical fitness online. In a newsletter to Australian pilots, John McCormick, CASA's director of aviation safety, said the idea is to make it easier for pilots to maintain medicals without sacrificing safety. "Having robust medical standards is a key element of aviation safety and this initiative ensures safety standards remain high while making the system simpler," McCormick said. Pilots will still have to get regular medical assessments (every two year for those 65 or younger, every year after that) but they're based mostly on driver's license standards and can be done by their family doctor. Australia requires all drivers to self-declare medical fitness to maintain their licenses. After being signed off by the GP, the pilot registers his or her medical fitness online and keeps the printed copy with him or her while flying. Australia's new rules have some significant differences from those being considered by the FAA. By the way, the deadline for comments on the joint EAA/AOPA third-class medical exemption proposal is July 2. To find out how to comment, look here (PDF).

The doctor's office flight medical adds a few areas of specific concern for aviation safety including questions about cancer, heart failure, head injuries, epilepsy and musculoskeletal disorders. As with the U.S. proposal, pilots in the new category can fly with only one "informed and consenting passenger" and are limited to day VFR. However, where the U.S. proposal limits aircraft flown under the exemption to those with piston engines of 180 horsepower or less, Australia sets the limit at piston singles of 1,500 kilograms (3,200 pounds) maximum takeoff weight or less. This captures a much wider range of aircraft than the U.S. exemption, but it still misses popular high-performance aircraft like the Cirrus SR22 and Cessna Corvalis, which are a few hundred pounds heavier. There's a 10,000 ASL ceiling for pilots in this class and flying in controlled airspace is allowed.