Third-Class Medical Relief: Finally

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So now it’s finally reality. The Third-Class medical exemption is a real thing, or at least it will be in May. Oddly, I am underwhelmed; like winning the lottery and learning that money can’t buy happiness. (OK, but all the same, I’d like a new TBM.)

I think I’m not alone in this sentiment, yet all the while feeling genuinely relieved that we’ve managed to eliminate a stifling regulation that had no measurable effect on either flight safety or the innocent ground-dwelling public. My reaction to this change—which is the biggest aeromedical regulatory shift in our lifetimes—is likely colored by the fact that we’ve been writing horse race stories about this law for five years. Whether intended or not, the coverage sustained the idea that once we got past this barrier, we would, at last, emerge into the sun-dappled uplands.

I’m not gonna be a buzzkill right out of the gate. We’ll just have to see what effect this has on the broad sweep of general aviation’s rocky fortunes. So I’ll just see if I can scope it down to my own pedestrian interests since, last time I checked, the world still revolves around me.

I was talking to longtime senior AME Ian Blair Fries Tuesday afternoon and I realized the Third-Class exemption does change my attitude slightly. Like most pilots my age, I sweat the medical, but I’m healthy and pretty confident I could maintain a Third Class for another decade or so. Not having to sweat it strikes me as a welcome option. But is it one that would encourage me to buy an airplane? Well, perhaps. But the reason I haven’t bought anything significant has less to do with the medical than how I choose to spend my money.

Airplanes are many things to many people, but in addition to being magically romantic, they are also inordinate consumers of wealth. Depending on the airplane, they can be downright threatening to the finances if an unplanned engine overhaul is required, or you find a spar corroded beyond repair or you hit that inevitable annual from hell. That’s why I’ve always owned airplanes in partnerships or clubs. I want others to share the burden (and value) of ownership of an expensive asset that’s used for 1 percent of a year, if you’re lucky.

I suspect that attitudes toward owning and flying occupy a continuum. At one end are the skin flints like me, at the opposite are pilots who would spend any amount of money to have unfettered access to an airplane. Between the poles lie the vast majority and I’m hoping that enough of them are medical fence sitters to benefit from this regulatory nudge.

Actually, that’s the wrong word. It’s more like a carrot that fell off the stick. It’s a big change and it may be possible to overestimate its effect just as easily as expecting little or nothing at all. We will see in the next year or two.

But look at it this way: If all that’s accomplished is ridding the world of one stupid rule that, despite a mountain of evidence, shows a complete lack of efficacy, we have prevailed in the good fight. And if one rule can fall, so can others. That’s reason enough to celebrate. Now where did I put that crack pipe?  

Comments (62)

Between: 1) medical reform, 2) part 23 rewrite, 3) STCs for experimental avionics, 4) Airmen Certification Standards replacing the PTS, and 5) using TAA in place of complex aircraft for training, there is a large amount of change in the GA world hitting all at once. We've been complaining for years about all the changes the FAA should make that would allow the GA world to innovate and grow, now all of these things are happening and we will have to perform. Do all these things added together bring GA into the modern era that will attract new people and uses to grow the segment? Or, do these changes just maintain the current state for the next several decades?

I guess we'll see.

Posted by: JEFFREY SMITH | January 10, 2017 7:21 PM    Report this comment

Ya missed it, Paul. It's not about buying, it's about SELLING. Now people will not have to sell their planes as they reach their 60's (or go through hoops if they are simply being treated for the normal maladies of high blood pressure or diabetes). Older pilots can deal with expensive annuals but not so much with FAA bureaucracy. This is cause for celebration since NO ONE saw this relief actually coming in our lifetime.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 10, 2017 7:32 PM    Report this comment

Hard for me to see how the new medical rules will be of any real benefit toward significant alleviation of GA's endless decline. The two real killers for personal GA are cost and the inherent difficulty of learning to fly. Cost could be slightly reduced by easing of unnecessary red tape (TSO, etc.) but not to any truly game-changing degree. And the difficulty factor is a social problem; with the fading away of the glamor that once bathed the "new thing" that aviation was in the first half of the 20th century, the average young person just is no longer motivated enough by the idea of flying an airplane to put forth the needed effort.

As far as preserving the current pilot population is concerned, I note that most commentators have suddenly woken up to the reality that the new rules are just a repackaging of the requirement that you must have a doctor certify you are healthy enough to fly an airplane with very low likelihood you will collapse over the yoke. Apparently many pilots thought this basic requirement was going away, although why is a mystery...the rules give us just what they said they were going to give.

Posted by: John Wilson | January 10, 2017 7:39 PM    Report this comment

You know Paul, I like you. I read all of your articles with a keen eye as you tend to not pull punches, and I like that in a reporter.

But this, this is a farce and a failure by all involved and it needs to just stop already. The FAA did what we expected them to do: add complication to an already messy law that was NEVER supposed to be this bogged/watered down/diluted to begin with. All it was supposed to be was an extension of the Light Sport rules to allow for a broader range of aircraft to be used and it devolved into this.....disaster.

It benefits PILOTS, folks who already fly, no one else. This was supposed to entice more folks who DON'T FLY YET to try it on for size....it's not going to do that, not at all. Potential pilots still have to get past an AME, and heaven forbid they need a Special Issuance---you can forget that!! The cost for one of those is astronomical, I know, it's the reason I'm not a pilot yet. I was hoping to get past this massive roadblock with this new law....not gonna happen, nope, no way. My only recourse is the all but useless LSA route, one that has been a failure since day one, and of little or no interest to anyone at all...unless you're old and rich that is.

Like I said at the beginning of this, I like you Paul. Please don't join the bandwagon of alphabet groups who are breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for a "job well done", you are so much better than that. Thanks!

Posted by: Michael Livote | January 10, 2017 9:32 PM    Report this comment

We asked for less, and instead they gave us more. A textbook example of a classic bureaucratic boondoggle.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 10, 2017 10:02 PM    Report this comment

Well, it isn't all that good. Parts sound like politically incorrect regulatory bullshit to me. Where's the gain?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 10, 2017 11:08 PM    Report this comment

I am underwhelmed by the Rule as published. It appears to require the personal physician do perform an exam that, rather than the exam the MD thinks is medically necessary but an exam that is essentially the same as a Class 3, and then certify the patient is safe to fly... despite not having any real training about what it means to be safe to fly.

It feels like a class 3 every four years but you can't fly internationally, above FL180 or with more than 6 souls on board.

This is not much better than what we had.

I am in the thick of it... a 60-something owner operator who would like to keep flying for awhile but not by throwing gobs of cash at medical exams.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | January 11, 2017 1:49 AM    Report this comment

Some grumpy old pilots will always find something to blame the government for. Free them from the terrors of the 3rd Class Medical and Special Issuances, and they'll complain about having to take an online course every two years.

The main effect of 3rd Class Medical Reform will (or may) be to keep old pilots with health problems in their planes a few more years. Not exactly a game-changer. Healthy 20-somethings -- the future of General Aviation -- have had little trouble passing the Medical, so the change won't make much difference to younger potential new pilots.

If anything is going to entice young people into flying, it will involve moving beyond the "romance" of mastering skills spawned in the first half of the 20th century for the purpose of piloting an airborne station wagon to a distant airport for the purpose of buying a hamburger. GA needs to embrace 21st century concepts of training, business management, customer service -- and LSA -- to make flying itself a fun activity. Low and slow day VFR flying - everybody says it's the most fun. Let's push that, not the bigger/faster/higher fixation that so many veteran pilots seem to have.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | January 11, 2017 1:50 AM    Report this comment

Rollin O, I've even known younger pilots who, once the FAA gets their curiosity piqued, get asked for information way beyond what is medically necessary.

As someone who really wants to be in their plane a few more years without the FAA Aeromedical folk directing my health care unnecessarily, it is a game changer. Or should be.

Grumpy old pilots? Only when faced with attitudes like yours.

The market has spoken on LSA. It's a loser unless you're flying for the fun of flying solo in the flatlands, not having three or four hundred miles to get where you're going. Actually flying for transportation and as someone living in the mountainous west, it ain't about faster, it's about getting up and over the Sierra Nevada, and an old Bonanza does it cheaper and better than a newer LSA that can barely take off when the density altitude is up around 5000' at my home field.

I fly my plane at low power settings, rarely faster than Carson's Speed and often at lower fuel flow than the book numbers cruise for my old Warrior II... but a BE35 gets more out of 12gph than any Cherokee. Give it a try before you denigrate it again.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | January 11, 2017 2:24 AM    Report this comment

I'm not seeing how this does a lick of good. Maybe it keeps some older pilots in certified planes for a few extra years, but that's it. New pilots still need to go through an AME, you still need to go through FAA bureaucracy every few years with a regular doctor, etc.

I know that young folks don't have a problem getting a third class medical. I know that the online course and regular doctor alternative aren't really that onerous. That's not the issue.

The issue is, us millennials (I recently learned that I am technically a millennial!) don't stand for bullshit. As you rightly pointed out, there is zero evidence that the third class medical does anything for safety of flight. So when a young whippersnapper looks into aviation as a hobby and is told "Okay, now go get this ridiculous medical exam or you can't solo," they don't deal with it. They say, "Geez, if this nonsense is required to jump through a silly hoop, I'll just find something else to do. I don't want to deal with that."

Modern convenience has spoiled us to be sure, but it's not entirely unjustified. Why take up a hobby where from the very get-go you realize you're going to be hobbled at every turn by mindless rules and restriction when there are 100 other ways to spend your money and time?

So I don't see this helping much. Maybe used airplane prices will rise a bit as old folks hold on to their old Mooneys and Beeches a few years longer. But I don't see this doing anything to stem the tide of private aviation's decline in any meaningful way.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | January 11, 2017 2:49 AM    Report this comment

BasicMed will lengthen the period between doctor visits from two years to four for those over 40 and from five years to seven for those under. And, you don't have to worry about failing the four year BasicMed exam; it doesn't get reported if you do. You could -- theoretically -- take it over and over with different doctors until one passes you. Isn't this a win in and of itself ?

I'll 'take' it. Now if we can get the MGTOW of a compliant LSA raised to -- say -- 2500 pounds ... that'd be great. EAA's Jack Pelton said they're working on it.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 11, 2017 6:49 AM    Report this comment

I'll take it. It's a world of improvement over what we had before.

As for people complaining that the FAA has made it more complicated, as far as I can tell from an initial reading, any complications have been added by the FAA in efforts to be more helpful than the legislation required.

For example, the legislation did not require the FAA to allow someone to take a checkride to add a NEW rating without holding a Class III. And, the existing regs explicitly, separately, require a Class III when taking a checkride to add a new rating! To give an example of how that can matter, today you can fly an LSA on a driver license medical with your private pilot certificate, but you cannot GET a private pilot certificate in that same airplane unless you have a Class III medical for the checkride. And, if the FAA had not made things "more complicated", the new medical could have meant you could fly on your Private ASEL forever, but you could never add an Instrument Rating, or a seaplane rating, or multi-engine, or whatever. But, the FAA will add language saying that you can take a checkride under the new medical rules. It's "more complicated" - but it's better!

As for the "4-page form", the current Class III form is also 4 pages - I assume it's pretty much the same form. So if you're young and in perfect health it will make very little difference to the actual exam, but if you're merely a grown-up and in good health, you won't need to get all the expensive tests re-done every time. And, either way, you will go through it less often.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | January 11, 2017 7:41 AM    Report this comment

"Healthy 20-somethings -- the future of General Aviation -- have had little trouble passing the Medical"
"I know that young folks don't have a problem getting a third class medical."

This is not necessarily universally true, and also depends on what you consider "young". All it takes is one visit to a doctor's office that the FAA finds interesting and suddenly you have to provide them reams of paperwork to prove that it's the nothing that your regular doctor knows it is. It doesn't matter how old or young you are.


"I've even known younger pilots who, once the FAA gets their curiosity piqued, get asked for information way beyond what is medically necessary."

This is true. It has happened to me twice, and I live a healthier lifestyle than many people my age or younger. In fact, with the most recent case, my AME gave me my new medical but I had Oklahoma City a few months later say they need more information. So apparently they don't even trust the AMEs, so what's the point of me even going to one in the first place?

I'd say the next step is to reform 2nd and 1st-class medicals too. Get rid of the AMEs all together (because apparently they're only there to weed out the most extreme cases of medical ineligibility) and just increase the frequency of visits to your regular doctor. Require the completed medical form to then be sent to the FAA if they must.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 11, 2017 8:29 AM    Report this comment

Two thoughts here...

1. As I understand it, physicians will have a checklist of things to go through during that four year exam. How many will decide they don't want to pass anyone who is going to drive one of them fancy new flying machines?

2. Since insurance drives so much of our lives, how many insurers will require a medical before agreeing to insure your airplane?

It will be interesting to see how it falls out over the next few years. Presumably everyone who has had a medical 6 - 10 years ago will have to go get the 'four year medical' soon we may find out sooner than later.

Posted by: Joel Ludwigson | January 11, 2017 9:37 AM    Report this comment

We have at least some idea on the insurance issue. This hasn't been an issue in the LSA market, even for airplanes costing up to $200K or more. We canvassed the insurers a couple of months ago and most said they wouldn't require a medical because they have the same numbers everyone else does. Also, the insurance markets right now are very competitive.

The docs are another matter. They're basically being asked to do, to a degree, what AMEs do without the benefit of training, support or the legal backstop of the FAA. We'll see how it shakes out.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 11, 2017 10:21 AM    Report this comment

Re: doctors, two thoughts I have on that

1) When I was still in to auto racing, I had to get a form signed by my doctor that basically said I was safe to drive cars at high speed and in close proximity to other cars. It wasn't an issue getting that signed at the time. Granted, flying is a little different, but I suspect many doctors (especially ones that already know which of their patients are pilots) won't have an issue signing. Certainly, some will, but to that...

2) Perhaps the AMEs will step in and be willing to perform basically the existing 3rd-class medical exam, except instead of submitting paperwork to the FAA, they just sign the form and you're done.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 11, 2017 10:37 AM    Report this comment

I second Gary's comment. I belong to a very large EAA Chapter. An AME who works with them will likely now go into the additional business of BasicMed ratings, as well. He'd be nuts NOT to; probably, most of his business IS third class medicals anyways. Think about it ... currently, he has to go onto a computer and fill out a bunch of info and submit it and sometimes do additional work for some. Under the new Reg, he'll do the medical and sign it and he's done. IF he doesn't feel comfortable, he'll decline to sign. Simple as that. I guess AME's incur some liability now ... but I've never heard of one being sued over a pilot's subsequent actions or lack of same?

And here's something that no one has brought up in this blog or the general Avweb article on the same subject. The requirement for a two year Flight Review has not gone away. If there's something wrong with a pilot that would preclude his ability to aviate, three people are STILL in the loop ... the pilot (day-to-day), the doctor who signed the BasicMed checklist and the CFI who signed off the biennual. It'll be unlikely that unqualified 100 year olds will be aviating (legally). But for a few who are in decent health, I guess it would be possible?

Finally, it's likely that what most aging pilots worry about is hypertension, type II diabetes and/or eye issues. In the cardiovascular section of the requirements, I don't see a specific BP number that would preclude signing the document ... only that the applicant is under care for the issue. Currently, that number is 155/95. That point alone is noteworthy.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 11, 2017 11:18 AM    Report this comment

Two comments on insurance and doctor liability. First, as Paul says, the insurance underwriters have known for years how useless the third class medical is, so they are not frightened by the change. Also, they are bound by legal statutes, and since the new bill legally replaces the former standard, they are bound to abide by it. As respects doctors, they derive some liability protection by completing the four page FAA form. Rather than freelancing an exam, they know what is needed or expected for the process. If a question arises later as to why they signed off a pilot's exam, they can say they followed the checklist as required.

Finally, I have flown under a special issuance for the past six years now. During that time I have kept a close eye on the LSA market just in case my medical condition might look cloudy for keeping a medical and flying my current plane. Just hedging my bets. If the new rule makes me more confident that I can continue to fly my Cardinal, then I view it as a good thing.

Posted by: John McNamee | January 11, 2017 12:11 PM    Report this comment

....My only recourse is the all but useless LSA route, one that has been a failure since day one, and of little or no interest to anyone at all...unless you're old and rich that is.


Well I suppose I am old (58) and perhaps rich but I don't understand the comment above. I own two LSA's - 1 Aeronca 11AC and 1 Jabiru J230. Love both of them. One is TW and the other has a nose gear. The Jabiru is fast, comfortable, fuel efficient and I can conduct my own maintenance. LSA has not been a failure for me or 1000's of others. If you're ever in Michigan, contact me and we'll go for a ride and perhaps you will change your opinion.

Best

Posted by: jay Manor | January 11, 2017 12:16 PM    Report this comment

I'm fascinated by the exclusion from Class-A airspace. I guess that's the exclusive province of "real pilots" who clearly have medical certificates, and always will. The people at Cirrus can't be very happy about that development, so fast on the heels of the release of their FL-280 personal jet...
Ken:
I did respond to your question about composites, over in the "What's Indispensable Aviation Technology?" blog. You can access old blogs through the blue-bar pull-down menu near the top of the page; select "Blogs/Publications" then "Blogs" then pick the blog you want to access.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 11, 2017 12:51 PM    Report this comment

I'll stick with the third for now. After sailing through my medical and walking out of the exam room I noticed a booth for hearing exams. 40 yrs in construction, even with careful use of protection, made me curious. There answer was oh no you go somewhere else, too much information. So for me one doc for AME, another for all of life's snags and warts.

Posted by: Chris Bailey | January 11, 2017 1:14 PM    Report this comment

" I guess that's the exclusive province of "real pilots" who clearly have medical certificates"

Nope, it's the horse trade with ALPA, whom you will recall opposed this revision. They don't want our fat asses up there having heart attacks in their airspace.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 11, 2017 1:35 PM    Report this comment

"...it's the horse trade with ALPA, whom you will recall opposed this revision."

My sarcasm was too subtle. Can exclusion of BasicMed pilots from "their" airports be far away? Never underestimate the power of "popular demand."

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 11, 2017 2:09 PM    Report this comment

"The market has spoken on LSA. It's a loser unless you're flying for the fun of flying solo in the flatlands"

Flying for the fun of flying (solo or with a friend in the other seat) -- sounds good to me.



"My only recourse is the all but useless LSA route, one that has been a failure since day one, and of little or no interest to anyone at all...unless you're old and rich that is. "

Icon Aircraft has sold nearly 2,000 positions for their LSA. Not exactly a failure. Whether they can deliver remains to be seen, but that's a different question. Icon's customers are probably rich, but it doesn't sound like they're old. Granted, marketing LSA to aging pilots in declining health hasn't worked very well. But that's because they'll generally want to hold on to planes they're familiar with, and not want to downsize to some newfangled little airframe. But who knows what other potential markets exist out there if someone (not me!) would aggressively pursue them.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | January 11, 2017 2:12 PM    Report this comment

"They don't want our fat asses up there having heart attacks in their airspace."

That makes me wonder, is there any data out there on how many 135 & 121 pilots have keeled over at the controls vs 91?

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 11, 2017 2:29 PM    Report this comment

Gary:

While Paul dutifully hunts down your numbers, consider this: EVERY 135 and 121/125 pilot who suffered a cardiac event did so with a Class 1 or Class 2 medical in his/her possession. Clearly, that slip of paper ain't a grant of immunity.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 11, 2017 2:49 PM    Report this comment

"Flying for the fun of flying (solo or with a friend in the other seat) -- sounds good to me."
-Rollin Olson

I get it Rollin... you think flying is only for fun.

I flew to Salt Lake City once for business ... in my Warrior II. Anemic, and to get an Instrument clearance into SLC had to accept a climb to 13,000 in order to get the handoff. Flying to SoCal from NorCal... IFR... the only reasonable routes have a minimum enroute altitude roughly equivalent to the Warrior's service ceiling in the warmer months... 11 thousand.

Flying is a lot of fun, Rollin, but I mostly fly to get somewhere. My plane isn't a toy... most of the time. If you want to really kill GA, limit it to toy airplanes.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | January 11, 2017 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Yars, that's exactly what I mean :-)

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 11, 2017 3:29 PM    Report this comment

....I am in the thick of it... a 60-something owner operator who would like to keep flying for awhile but not by throwing gobs of cash at medical exams

Greg, we all have to make choices.....perhaps you will find you want to just fly for fun and going places that don't require climbing to 13,000 feet. I plan on taking my LSA from Denver to California. It will just take longer going the southern route but I'll have a lot of fun doing it.

Posted by: jay Manor | January 11, 2017 4:30 PM    Report this comment

Jay, I've a stanard issuance 3rd class, recently expired, and have no doubt I could get another. Perhaps when I have no hope of being up to the challenge I'll join the LSA brigade but i suspect most who take that route would be better off staying on the ground. Yes, I've seen LSAs destroyed by pilots who hadn't taken the hint. Fortunately,the pilots got out with minor injuries (one got taken for a $30k life flight he didn't need).

Enjoy your LSA, let me enjoy my BE35 and the flights in my future. Nursing a LSA from CO to CA and back is not my idea of fun, bon voyage.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | January 12, 2017 2:24 AM    Report this comment

Larry: " And, you don't have to worry about failing the four year BasicMed exam; it doesn't get reported if you do. You could -- theoretically -- take it over and over with different doctors until one passes you. Isn't this a win in and of itself ? "

That, I think, is the big (well, moderately-small sized) win out of all of this. The rule got rid of the "once you start you're committed" part of a regular medical cert. The guidance for doctors is still excessive and has them looking for things that have nothing to do with being able to fly an airplane, but we have a crack in the armor.

Now if we could get an equivalent of the Canadian "owner-maintained" category and push the LSA manufacturing rules up to larger aircraft, we might start to make a dent in the costs. But I'd rather see small privately-owned aircraft more or less deregulated--keep the Part 23 rules (they're basically just sound engineering practice) but do away with the showing/finding compliance, FAA approval of every step of every process of every aspect of production from design approval to build to quality control to factory layout, and the rigid, literally down-to-the-last-nut-and-bolt control of configuration post production. It's the paperwork and bureaucracy that drives up the cost of producing small airplanes, not the technical requirements.

Posted by: Robert Gatlin-Martin | January 12, 2017 4:41 AM    Report this comment

Greg, not sure where to start with your "advice". Sounds like I should rush right out and trash that less than capable LSA I own and take the bus. I can't thank you enough for saving me from flying my steed. Why I'm going to start right away my search for a "real airplane ", perhaps even a Bonanza.

Posted by: jay Manor | January 12, 2017 5:05 AM    Report this comment

Greg, you say "...the LSA brigade but I suspect most who take that route would be better off staying on the ground".

And yet the data show that your suspicion is unfounded. Wrong. Many of the LSA crowd took that route because getting an FAA medical is excessively difficult, not because the people themselves were unfit to fly.

You also say, "If you want to really kill GA, limit it to toy airplanes"

I think you may be mistaken here, too. Of course, any limitation is going to help kill GA,but in all likelihood it is recreational flying that will be the long-term future of GA, not utility use. GA has been sold as practical transportation for decades, but in recent decades that pitch has failed - which helps to explain the "death" of GA. Today, for short trips of up to several hundred miles, cars are more reliable, are useful when you arrive, and will get there in roughly the same time (often less) after you allow for flight planning and all the logistics of preflight, tie-down, taxi, etc. For long trips, airlines are cheaper, and a much smaller percentage of the population lives in the towns and cities not served by airlines, than in the past. Of course, the amount of training required to safely operate a small airplane as a reliable travel machine is extraordinary, requiring far more time than can be spared by the vast majority of people who can afford to fly such machines. Which brings us to cost: reliable go-places airplanes are very, very expensive. A new A36 will run you $1,000,000 (i.e., you could buy nearly SEVEN luxury LSAs equipped like airliners), and if you don't like hanging out in IMC over the mountains behind a piston engine you'll need a TBM 800 ($3,250,000 or so).

The fact is, as a transportation machine, the affordable, piston-engined, unpressurized airplane is obsolete.

But obsolete doesn't mean dead. Next time you're at the coast, go to the marina and take a look at the millions and millions of dollars worth of sailboats tied up there. Sailing - obsolete for more than a century as a means of transportation - remains popular and successful. For recreational purposes. GA can go the same way - but we need to embrace the social, recreational side of flying.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | January 12, 2017 7:36 AM    Report this comment

"Of course, any limitation is going to help kill GA,but in all likelihood it is recreational flying that will be the long-term future of GA, not utility use."

Icon seems to think so. They may have fumbled with the purchase agreement they came up with, but it appears they're reversing on some of that, and I hope they succeed.


"Today, for short trips of up to several hundred miles, cars are more reliable, are useful when you arrive, and will get there in roughly the same time (often less) after you allow for flight planning and all the logistics of preflight, tie-down, taxi, etc."
"Which brings us to cost: reliable go-places airplanes are very, very expensive."

Not necessarily. For starters, I was able to go door-to-door from CT to MD in as little as 3.5-4 hours with a Piper Archer. That included driving to/from the airport, preflight, and filing and departing IFR. The quickest I was able to do that by car or train was at least 5 hours. Granted, I had a perfect setup because I live relatively close to the airport and I had a family member pick me up at the other end, but it shows it's still possible, and with a modest GA airplane at that.

Also, one doesn't need a brand-new A36 to travel farther than about 300-or-so nautical miles. A used Bonanza can accomplish the same thing at a fraction of the cost (even if you assume having to completely redo the avionics). Only people with lots of money to burn will buy a new aircraft (and good for them, too - they're the ones that are buying tomorrow's used aircraft when they trade up).

I think the real problem today with using GA for affordable, reliable transportation is the cosmetic neglect many of the used aircraft have gone through. Even your basic $20k car today has a rather nicely-appointed interior that is far better than many used aircraft out there. Sure, we pilots know that as long as the airframe and engine are sound and well-maintained that looks don't matter, but for everyone else, looks are the only thing that matter.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 12, 2017 8:30 AM    Report this comment

"...if you don't like hanging out in IMC over the mountains behind a piston engine you'll need a TBM 800 ($3,250,000 or so)."

As of last month, there's also a personal jet for $1.96 million.

Of course, the new BasicMed rules prohibit operations in the flight levels, regardless of the thickness of your wallet. maybe that will spawn the creation of a pressurized FIKI glider! ;-)

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 12, 2017 8:46 AM    Report this comment

"Now if we could get an equivalent of the Canadian "owner-maintained" category" - this alone stops me from purchasing a factory-built airplane. This rule is just an antiquated as all the medical-related nonsense.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 12, 2017 9:48 AM    Report this comment

I am very grateful to EAA and AOPA for continuing to press for this, and the Congress for passing the required legislation. I swore 3+ years ago that I would buy a plane the day after the exemption took effect. May 10, 2017, baby!

I have been a pilot since I was 18, CFII since 20. Now 54. Have owned several airplanes in partnerships. Teach mountain flying, LSA and instrument flying. Have been active as an LSA pilot since I "put away" my Class II certificate in 2011 after being diagnosed with cancer, but have become bored with LSA flying. Since my diagnosis, I had one year where I flew over 200 hours, which is good for me. But as for my cancer affecting my flights? No effects noticed. Told my AME and my oncologist about the FAA requiring me to be cancer free for three years in order to get a medical. They both thought it was ridiculous. "It's not like a heart attack. It's a disease of months and years, not minutes."

Now, it sounds like it won't matter. Yes, I will self-evaluate, as I have been doing for years. I don't fly when I've just undergone cancer treatment. I watch for early signs of nausea and control it with meds before I fly. But my brain and reflexes are what they used to be. I make fewer mistakes when i fly than most of the Class-III medical holders I teach or give BFRs to. The Light Sport Certificate has proved that a Class III medical serves no purpose whatsoever.

Anyone know of a 182P for sale? I either want one that's pretty much run out and I do the upgrades, or one that has been at least partially upgraded in recent years. I will probably put $30,000 in avionics in it...helping GA.

Posted by: MARC COAN | January 12, 2017 10:09 AM    Report this comment

One thing that MAY have been eliminated with the new BasicMed rule is the Class 3 Procedural Trap; if you fail an exam, say bye-bye to ever flying under Light Sport rules.

This trap has always seemed unfair to me; an airman presents himself in good faith to an AME but can have his options stripped in a heartbeat (no pun intended) and subsequently wish he hadn't gone in for the medical. This has had the diabolical effect of many pilots AVOIDING medical care instead of promoting it. Having the FAA influencing people to hide from their doctors is a BAD idea.

Can anyone confirm that this trap has been eliminated with BasicMed exams?

Posted by: A Richie | January 12, 2017 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Marc Coan, you are an inspiration. I wish you all the best.

Ritchie, this is correct. If the non-AME doc says you don't qualify and/or he won't sign the checklist, you walk out. The FAA isn't involved. You are free to doctor shop until you find one who will sign it.

How great is that? Well...it's great as long as docs balking at this doesn't become a problem.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 12, 2017 11:25 AM    Report this comment

I'm one of those 20 somethings who has had no issue passing a medical before. Still, I find this new rule nicer and am happy that I have gotten my last FAA medical (I hope). As long as I keep getting the regular physical.

I got the impression that the Class III is more legal exercise than a fitness-to-fly determinant anyways. It took me longer to fill out that online form than the actual medical exam itself took.

It seems this LSA business gets brought up a lot. For the most part, I see LSA as having morphed into a path to keep people flying a bit longer. I wonder if we will see a similar thing happen with BasicMed. Meaning, this new rule will mainly keep people flying their Skyhawks, Cherokees, Beeches, RV's, etc. longer. I also wonder if the traditional LSA business will take a hit because of that.

Posted by: Joshua Waters | January 12, 2017 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Joshua, the indications are that LSA - or its descendants - will be just fine. Yes, there was a rush of people looking at LSA as a way to avoid having to get another medical, but these days what's driving the LSA market is people looking for reasonably capable airplanes. LSA are said to be slow, but that's relative: they'll keep up with older 172s. They also have dramatically better runway performance. If you only need two seats you can get a luxury LSA with airliner-class avionics and automotive-level finish (inside and out) for less than half the price of a 172. You'll give up 10 knots to a new 172. So, after 3 hours of flying, the 172 will get there 15 minutes earlier - enough for bragging rights, but not enough to matter.

Part of the reason the LSA costs less than the 172 - despite having design costs to amortize (unlike the 172) - is that it's smaller. But a big part is the LSA certification rules. As Part 23 reform rolls out, expect to see Son-of-LSA come through, with larger airplanes at a price point lower than today's 172, but (of course) higher than LSA.

I think it's unlikely - not impossible - that we'll see the Sport Pilot rule get expanded to allow sport pilots to fly heavier, faster airplanes, now that the new "Class III then driver license" medical is out there. As the manufacturers shift their investments into Son-of-LSA (larger Part 23) we'll probably see far fewer new "true" LSA designs out there - but there are already so many that I think Sport Pilots will be well served for a long, long time.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | January 12, 2017 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Thomas, the extra 15 minutes in the air is actually an advantage if you are one of those trying to "build time" while taking the same flight! And even if you're not, most of us like to spend as much time in the air as possible anyway :-)

The glass can always be half full...

Posted by: A Richie | January 12, 2017 1:07 PM    Report this comment

BMD, I understand your privacy concern. But this is a public forum, it's curated and it is kept sane and polite by the use of full names. I ask it of everyone. If you can't stand by your opinion with a real name, as I do, every single day, why should anyone bother to read your posting?

So, sorry, but I've deleted your posts.

We don't mind multiple posts, but yours were a bit much. I would rather have such observations in a guest blog and I am happy to extend that invitation to you to give your observations a fuller airing.

But it will need a byline. With your real name. Anonymous postings are for the newsgroups.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 12, 2017 7:02 PM    Report this comment

"Healthy 20-somethings -- the future of General Aviation -- have had little trouble passing the Medical, so the change won't make much difference to younger potential new pilots."

From my experience as a CFII, I've had memorable number of apparently healthy 20-somethings have difficulty getting their 3rd Class medicals because of treatment as adolescents or teenagers for ADHD and other behavioral issues. Most ended up successfully getting a medical but it was a fraught experience and not a $90/1 hr stop at the AME. These students were medication free at the time of training; their parents/schools were medicating them quite a number of years in the past yet that history triggered a need for documentation or additional process.

These new rules won't help them, because they still will have to pay to run the gauntlet the first time.

Posted by: DON HUDDLER | January 12, 2017 7:21 PM    Report this comment

Don -

"From my experience as a CFII, I've had memorable number of apparently healthy 20-somethings have difficulty getting their 3rd Class medicals because of treatment as adolescents or teenagers for ADHD and other behavioral issues."

Thanks for reminding this no-longer-young guy of the realities of today's young people.

Maybe I'm being over-cautious, but I don't think it's a bad idea to make sure that a prospective airplane pilot who grew up with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (defined online as "a brain disorder marked by ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impassivity that interferes with functioning or development") will not be likely to start fidgeting or lose attention or take impulsive action while acting as Pilot In Command.

If, as a CFII you're confident you can make that judgment, then more power to you. I'd feel safer relying on medical experts.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | January 13, 2017 1:08 AM    Report this comment

WOW ... 50 comments ... the Subject must be a "hot potato"

Rollin ... I think Don's point was that schools and doctors are too quick to diagnose kids -- and adults -- with every sort of problem with a three or four lettered mneumonic that no one has ever heard of before. All ya gotta do is watch TV for a while and the informercials will inform you of the latest one and -- of course -- a pill that'll fix it ... with 25 potential side effects. I never heard of ADHD when I was a kid in the 50's, et sub. So some of those youngsters are wrongly being stigmatized with maladies that aren't really that big a thing, I'd say.

Hey ... maybe THAT is why everyone fought for the third class medical relief. CFI's aren't doctors but most have probably flown with quite a few folks and can size up a pilot's ability to control the airplane and do what he is tasked to do IAW the checklist. If not, they don't sign them off. Kinda like a BasicMed doctor.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 13, 2017 3:18 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Olson: One of the big problems with dropping the hammer on people diagnosed as kids with ADHD is that many of them were diagnosed with and medicated for something they didn't actually have (particularly people my age and younger), when all that was actually wrong is that they were utterly bored to tears or unchallenged in the standard classroom environment. I would likely have been one of them if I'd had different parents and my means of entertaining myself in class been something more active than reading books or drawing airplanes.

Even then, people with ADHD still manage to function in everyday society. I'd think a CFI would be far better able to tell if a given person is mentally capable of flying after several hours of instruction than some random doctor.

Mr. Keen: That's why I'm going the homebuilt route, and I encourage all others who can to do so. I truly think homebuilts and LSAs are the future of light GA at this point, barring a Richter-scale-measureable shift at the FAA.

Posted by: Robert Gatlin-Martin | January 13, 2017 4:54 AM    Report this comment

The comments about "conditions" reminded me of three memorable students. Two were dyslexic; one was aviophobic. As much as they represented challenges to me, their courageous confrontation of their own challenges was instructive and inspiring. And all three of them were interesting "characters."

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 13, 2017 6:48 AM    Report this comment

"From my experience as a CFII, I've had memorable number of apparently healthy 20-somethings have difficulty getting their 3rd Class medicals because of treatment as adolescents or teenagers for ADHD and other behavioral issues."

These poor kids have grown up staring down at the little box in their hands, rather than taking in the physical world around them. They are bound to have some "issues". A very sad problem in our "modern" times.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 13, 2017 8:26 AM    Report this comment

I will file this rule under the "every little bit helps" category. Since I disagree with Paul, and in actuality, the world revolves around me, it will enable me to jump through some medical hoops in the future, without jeopardy. That's no small thing. I've been taking medicals since 1979, and sweating each and every one. What it means to GA as a whole, I have no idea, but as opposed to much of what comes from the administrator, whatever impact it has will be positive.

Posted by: Dave Gampfer | January 13, 2017 10:14 AM    Report this comment

"What it means to GA as a whole, I have no idea". It's more like what it means to about 15% of GA. Those of us in reasonable good health eventually will be in the "every little bit helps" crowd. But, the 15% of marginally fit beneficiaries will remain. Student pilot third-class medicals should have been per the original proposal. If they can drive they should be able to fly.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 13, 2017 12:19 PM    Report this comment

I find it interesting that the alphabet groups and others speak of the need to educate doctors about BasicMed, but not about liability concerns. While I'm sure the education can't hurt, it can't overcome the great difference in the liability risk that an MD incurs under BasicMed and the liability an AME incurs in medical certificate issuance. In the latter case, an AME signs or initials the following statement, "I hereby certify that I have personally reviewed the medical history and personally examined the applicant named on this medical examination report. This report with any attachment embodies my findings completely and correctly." So, an AME is certifying that he/she has conducted an examination and correctly reported what he/she found. Compare that to the statement an MD signs under BasicMed: " I certify that I am not aware of any medical condition that, as presently treated, COULD interfere with the individual's ability to safely operate an aircraft." (emphasis added). Many things, that are not likely or probable COULD interfere with a pilot's ability to safely fly. That's a huge difference in liability exposure. Last I checked, MD's are pretty wary of taking on added liability. Maybe they will be sufficiently motivated to acquire insurance to protect themselves, but I doubt education will provide that motivation.

Posted by: Robert Davison | January 13, 2017 1:30 PM    Report this comment

I find it interesting that the alphabet groups and others speak of the need to educate doctors about BasicMed, but not about liability concerns. While I'm sure the education can't hurt, it can't overcome the great difference in the liability risk that an MD incurs under BasicMed and the liability an AME incurs in medical certificate issuance. In the latter case, an AME signs or initials the following statement, "I hereby certify that I have personally reviewed the medical history and personally examined the applicant named on this medical examination report. This report with any attachment embodies my findings completely and correctly." So, an AME is certifying that he/she has conducted an examination and correctly reported what he/she found. Compare that to the statement an MD signs under BasicMed: " I certify that I am not aware of any medical condition that, as presently treated, COULD interfere with the individual's ability to safely operate an aircraft." (emphasis added). Many things, that are not likely or probable COULD interfere with a pilot's ability to safely fly. That's a huge difference in liability exposure. Last I checked, MD's are pretty wary of taking on added liability. Maybe they will be sufficiently motivated to acquire insurance to protect themselves, but I doubt education will provide that motivation.

Posted by: Robert Davison | January 13, 2017 1:32 PM    Report this comment

I just read the long AOPA web article on Basic Med and I see something there that may apply to MANY people here, et al. I fit into the situation myself. Ya'll better pay attention ...

After the new rule takes effect on May 1, we now know that anyone wanting to fly under Basic Med will have to see their private physician every four years and complete the checklist every two years. Here's the UNBELIEVABLE part ... a visit to an AME two years earlier WILL NOT SUFFICE as the doctor visit !!!!!

My last 3rd class was May 2015 so during the month of May 2017, I can legally fly under my 3rd class certificate. But on June 1 -- to legally fly under BasicMed -- I have to have both the online course certificate AND a form certificate from a private physician. The AME exam two years earlier will not suffice.

Are these people in DC for real ?? (sound of a giant sigh coming from me!)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 13, 2017 2:20 PM    Report this comment

Larry that was exactly my point: many of today's millennials were summarily labeled/diagnosed as having the "disorder du jour" when they were kids; a labelling that has non-trivial consequences under the 3rd class system.

To add to the hot potato/hot topic mix: How about allowing single seat commercial operation under BasicMed?

I personally know two aerial application pilots both of whom have medical conditions that foreclose a 2nd class medical generally, but they are given a special issuance 2nd class medical valid only for the purposes of single seat Part 137 operations. The medical is 3rd class for all other operations. If the risk is low enough to let them operate, why not save the money and time for the aerial application generally and let them BasicMed single seat a/c? (Obviously also suggesting that the weight limit be either waived or substantially increased ...)

Outside of 121 and 135 I am unconvinced that medical certification increases safety enough to justify the regulatory costs (both on the FAA side and in the regulated entities).

Thoughts? It my risk tolerance higher than other readers?

Posted by: DON HUDDLER | January 13, 2017 2:32 PM    Report this comment

I'm still trying to figure out how any pilot could be "suddenly incapacitated" by skin cancer. Don't get me started on undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 13, 2017 3:09 PM    Report this comment

"Thoughts? It my risk tolerance higher than other readers?"

No. You're perfectly rational. It's the surrounding system that nuts. If you're honest about the data, even medical cert for airline pilots probably isn't supportable with good science. It's all about political optics.

Larry, just get the AME to fill out the checklist...

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 13, 2017 3:18 PM    Report this comment

As a CFI, I'll continue with the Third-Class medical as I do not need the "medical relief". But could you configure a "Question of the week" poll Paul.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 13, 2017 5:15 PM    Report this comment

PB ... that's EXACTLY what I intend on doing prior to heading to God's Country when it warms up. The AME I've been seeing for almost two decades 'hosed' me up last time so ... it's likely time to go elsewhere. I'll keep ya posted on my success. IF the AME who supports the Chapter has any sense at all ... he'll defer to common sense vs this uncommon sense and he'll have my money.

Yars ... do you snore ??? :-)))))))))) I want your significant other (how's THAT for PC?) to answer THAT one. What s your neck size?

All afternoon I was thinking about it. I'm convinced that the baristas on Independence Ave figured out a way to offload BasicMed 'liability' onto regular docs in much the same way the mythical 'they' offloaded' airworthiness responsibility onto LSA manufacturers.

I think I'm coming down with OIC ... or was it OU812 ... does anyone know what pill I should take for THAT ??

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 13, 2017 7:47 PM    Report this comment

Sleeping pill.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 13, 2017 8:17 PM    Report this comment

Larry:

I sleep like a baby. A very large baby. And while regular readers in this space likely have concluded that I must have a 32-inch neck to support my big head, it may come as a surprise that I have to make do with the same 19-inch one that I've had since I was a high school athlete.

I've had the same AME for four decades. He's also my Primary Care Physician, so full disclosure is in play. When the FAA first announced the rule that could require screening for undiagnosed sleep apnea (USA), I asked the doc whether such screening was medically indicated for me. He responded that he was unconcerned about the size of my neck (and all of my other body parts), but that "rules are rules." Good answer.

I contacted my health insurance carrier. They told me that they would NOT pay for USA screening unless it was medically indicated - NOT "administratively indicated" by the FAA.

I researched prices. $2,000 to $5,000. Every two years (unless I undergo a successful "shrink-that-neck-omy" operation).

Now it would be one thing if we were experiencing a weekly aluminum (and carbon) turd storm of airplanes dropping out of the sky, with snoozing pilots at the controls. But in the century-plus since the Wright brothers first abandoned the soil, not even ONE aircraft accident has been attributed to USA. The FAA's out-of-nowhere rule is a classic example of a solution-in-search-of-a-problem.

If flying was the source of most of my income, I might have to reconsider my strategy - and just somehow suck up the biennial cost. But it ain't, so for the moment I can plan to cruise on BasicMed. But the (surprise? NOT) prohibition on operations in the Flight Levels may force me to reconsider. Time will tell.
But thanks for askin'!

Meanwhile, Paul may be able to come up with data that characterizes the incidence of in-flight pilot incapacitations caused by coronary-events, disaggregated by type-of-operation (91, 135, 121/125, etc.). I'd like to be confident that the FAA's prohibition of BasicMed operations in the Flight Levels has some rational basis. I'd also like to hit the Powerball lottery and retire. Which is more likely?

-YARS

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 14, 2017 11:40 AM    Report this comment

"But in the century-plus since the Wright brothers first abandoned the soil, not even ONE aircraft accident has been attributed to USA. "

I'm not 100 percent sure this is true. I seem to recall mention of it somewhere in the thousands of accident reports I have pored over. The problem with coronary event as accident causes is that they are mostly post-mort, so it's "may have been a factor."

In the airline event, the second pilot landed the airplane and the dead pilot was removed for an actual autopsy.

Which reminds me of that horrible experience a Northwest crew had many years ago flying a 727 into JFK. The Captain keeled over in what turned out to be a massive heart attack. The flight engineer asked the First Officer what they should do. "Well, the first thing is to get that son of a bitch out of my seat!"

Key cymbals.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 15, 2017 10:53 AM    Report this comment

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