Huerta Says Medical Reform In The Works

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A notice of proposed rulemaking to change the third-class medical rules for pilots will be published by the end of this year, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a forum crowd at EAA AirVenture on Thursday. He said he has already reviewed and signed a draft of the proposal, which now is going through an executive review process. Huerta said the change was driven by the response to a petition from EAA and AOPA asking for an exemption. "We asked for public comment on this and we've received more than 16,000 comments," Huerta said. "A change that affects this many people is typically not done using the exemption route. ... Exemptions are usually for very limited circumstances or for limited durations. We do major policy changes through rulemaking."

The proposed rule will lay out the parameters that define how a person could fly without a third-class medical certificate, Huerta said, but he gave no specifics as to what those parameters might be. "We are trying to take a reasonable approach to ensure we maintain the highest levels of safety in recreational flying," he said. Huerta also said the 2020 deadline for pilots to equip their airplanes for ADS-B Out is not going to change. "ADS-B Out is one of the foundational elements of NextGen, and it allows us to bring you many benefits," he said. He added that some pilots who have installed new avionics have run into problems, so the FAA is providing a free service to verify ADS-B performance. "Just email us and ask us to check your equipment, and we'll do it," he said. "We search a database of flight tracks kept at our Tech Center in Atlantic City, and we can see if you are transmitting correctly. We have set up a dedicated email account, and last month, we checked 300 aircraft, and helped owners fix issues." Pilots can find more info and the email address here.

Huerta also encouraged pilots to consider installing angle-of-attack indicators in their aircraft. The FAA's simplification of the approval process for these devices has enabled the prices to come down from about $6,000 to $1,500 or less, and there is less paperwork required for the installation. Also, he noted that a new draft advisory circular is in the works that will encourage an additional qualified pilot to ride in amateur-built aircraft for phase-one flight testing. "The final advisory circular can significantly enhance the safety of experimental aircraft testing by having an expert ride with you," he said. "Many times the pilot who built the aircraft may not have prior experience flying that type of aircraft. It's exactly during the testing phase when it makes sense to have a pilot who is more familiar with the aircraft accompany you. This best practice guidance is an example of the FAA and EAA really working together to make things better for the experimental aircraft community." The full text of Huerta's speech is posted on the FAA website.