Third Class Exemption: Still Many Questions


The recent passage of the Third Class medical exemption was cause for cheering in the GA industry, but for some pilots, the actual effect of the legislation remains cloudy at best.”The law is very, very specific in how can you use this exemption,” said Dr. Ian Blair Fries, a senior Aviation Medical Examiner with years of experience and who works exclusively in dealing with the FAA to gain special issuances for pilots who are otherwise unqualified to have medicals. But Fries said he’s too uncertain about how the FAA will implement that new law to offer advice on how the agency will handle special issuances going forward.

The legislation, signed by President Obama earlier this month, gives the FAA 180 days to develop and publish new rules to reflect the intent of the law. If it fails to do so after a year’s time from the bill’s signing, pilots are to use their own best judgment in seeking medical evaluation and the FAA will be prohibited from any enforcement action if it doesn’t like the pilot’s efforts.

“The issue that has not been resolved is how this will affect pilots who have a potentially disqualifying condition. And that’s the part that we just don’t know how the FAA is going to handle this. That’s the part I’m not willing to guess about at this point. We have to see how the FAA implements this law,” Fries said.

The legislation specifically lists three medical areas of concern: cardiac, mental health and neurological conditions. The FAA is left to define how it will handle medicals where these conditions are known to exist. You can hear more details on this topic in this exclusive AVweb podcast and at AirVenture this week, Fries will conduct a forum on the topic. See it at the AOPA tent on Tuesday, July 26 at 11 a.m.