Medical Proposal Likely Delayed: Fuller

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A joint initiative by EAA and AOPA to convince the FAA to offer medical certificate exemptions for certain limited GA operations will likely be delayed while the agency looks for a new administrator. In a town-hall meeting speech at Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring on Friday, AOPA President Craig Fuller said former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt's resignation after a drunk-driving charge means the medical proposal will likely be shelved for a few months until a new administrator has been named and is up to speed. The joint proposal would exempt pilots flying day VFR in aircraft with not more than 180 horsepower from the third-class medical requirement. In a podcast interview, Fuller said he would support an increase in the maximum weight for light sport aircraft that is in the very earliest stages of consideration by the FAA. EAA President Rod Hightower, in response to a question from the floor, discussed the potential of a weight increase, for safety purposes, during his speech to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) dinner on Thursday. Fuller also dropped some hints about the direction AOPA will be headed to improve student pilot retention.

Fuller will lay out the full program in a Web address next week but he told the crowd in Sebring some issues stand out after AOPA's two-year investigation of the abysmal success rate for student pilots. Less than 30 percent of those who start flying lessons get their certificates. Instructor professionalism and the training environment will undoubtedly be addressed (possibly by way of an incentive program) and there will likely be efforts announced to bolster the sense of community among pilots; Fuller mentioned flying clubs in that context. He also said he does not expect implementation of the $100-per-leg user fee for turbine aircraft in the election year but he does expect it to come up in 2013 when the new administration is in place.