Senate Acts On Third-Class Medical Exemption

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A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would allow more pilots to fly without a medical certificate, AOPA said on Tuesday. The measure mirrors a similar bill that was introduced in the House in December. The legislation being proposed would expand the third-class medical exemption, which now applies only to sport pilots, to noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats, AOPA said. Pilots would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, and would be restricted to altitudes below 14,000 feet msl and airspeeds no faster than 250 knots. The FAA would be required to report on the safety consequences of the new rule after five years.

AOPA and EAA petitioned the FAA in 2012 to expand the third-class medical exemption. More than 16,000 overwhelmingly favorable comments were filed on that petition during the public comment period. Expanding the medical exemption to GA aircraft operating for recreational purposes "makes sense from both a practical and safety standpoint," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kans., one of the sponsors of the bill. "The FAA has had two years to review this request for an exemption," he added. "Let's get this thing moving." In the House, 52 co-sponsors have signed on to the bill, AOPA said.

Tuesday evening, EAA chairman Jack Pelton said he was glad to see the bill advance. "We appreciate the senators' attention and action on this issue that has negatively affected many pilots," he said. "It is time to use the positive safety experience gained from a decade of sport pilot activity -- as well as such flying activities as gliders and ballooning -- to establish medical certification reforms that will sustain and grow general aviation in this country."