AOPA: BasicMed Hits 50K


After years of petitioning the FAA to ease access to airman medicals, AOPA was successful in getting BasicMed passed in 2017, and now the association says more than 50,000 pilots have taken advantage of the program. That’s a not-insignificant percentage of the 600,000 certificated pilots in the U.S., but one that AOPA expects to grow as the pilot population continues to age.

Designed to replace the Third Class medical for many non-commercial pilots, BasicMed requires only an exam by a participating physician, and expires after a generous 48 months, though pilots must complete an online exam every 24 months. (Of course, this is the FAA here, so the medical expires after four years on the exact date, while the quiz expires at the end of the 24th calendar month.) Pilots on BasicMed can fly single- or twin-engine aircraft with six or fewer seats that weigh 6000 pounds or less (max gross weight) and cruise 250 knots or less, up to 18,000 feet MSL. 

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. “Of course, this is the FAA … ”

    As one of the very first pilots to avail themselves of BasicMed, it’s working for me SO far. Not so much for my buddies.

    I have uncovered a “plot” by the AME community in the local area up north where I summer. My buddies are telling me the AME’s they were using for the 3rd class started recommending that they use BasicMed right after it came out in 2017. Then — suddenly, earlier this year — they’re saying they won’t do BasicMed. Digging deeper, I find that they attended an AME conference someplace and the “community” somehow scared the you know what out of them over liability. That’s bad enough. But the specific Sr AME told all of his regular doctor buddies and now they won’t do BasicMed exams either. Wonderful. There aren’t a lot of doctors around here so … now the folks that did or were going to use BasicMed are .. how you say … screwed. They’re having to go back to paying for 3rd class exams every two years.

    At Airventure, I made this my raison d’etra this year. I marched right into the FAA pavilion and sought out the Sr AME and told HIM about it. He wasn’t happy and did vow to dig into it and do something about it. I give him great credit. He was the only bright spot in the situation but now the damage is done. Taking it a step further, I met with Sen Inhofe and told HIM about it. HE was livid ! So much so that he put his staff on me to get the facts and specifics and deal with as he can directly with the AME community in OKC. I recommended that his new Bills indemnify any doctor who performs a Basic Med exam. I’m “on” this and will continue to be with Sen Inhofe. Mark Baker and Jack Pelton were at the Sen Inhofe meeting so … they’re aware of it, as well.

    SO … it appears there is a “deep state” within the FAA, too? The AME’s went TOO far with the third class medical nonsense for pilots flying recreationally and now are trying to throw rocks into the path of anyone trying to use BasicMed as an alternative. I STRONGLY recommend that anyone who encounters this write to Sen Inhofe so his staff is aware of it. This all occurred in one of the nine AME regions in the central US.

    As I often say … “The FAA … making simple stuff hard since 1958.” (sic) One step forward … one step back 🙁 The bright spot in ALL of this … Senator Inhofe … a great guy IMHO.

    • Larry, that is just about what I found. The conspiracy you uncovered is disturbing.

      I have found no doctors who are willing to do a basic med exam except for those who are AMEs. They want to do the third class medical and call it Basic Med.

      The lesson here is that we have a large laboratory of experimentation, they are sport pilots, who have no third class medical. They fly sport aircraft and the vast majority of that population is old guys who have enough money for an overpriced sport aircraft but cannot pass a third class medical.

      Clearly if the third class medical had any impact on preventing accidents caused by pilot incapacitation they would *all* be dead. So the third class medical was and is unnecessary and it always was.

      The FAA’s behavior was outrageous too. They would tell a pilot who had a stent in his heart to resolve a blockage to get a non-medically necessary angeogram, which the pilot had to pay out of pocket for. He would send the results overnight to the FAA in OKC and months later call to ask where his special issuance medical is. The FAA would only then open the envelope and say to him on the phone “Oh, your angeogram is four months old, get another one.” Outrageous.

      The FAA has spent years making everyone involved with them miserable and they badly need to be corrected.

      Their approach to certification is outrageous too. The purpose of certification is not to make sure everything for aircraft costs millions of dollars, it’s to make sure the plane doesn’t crash. Those same sport and experimental aircraft can use a nice, all digital autopilot that costs under $1,000, but for a certified plane it can be $24,000, and it’s *much* more primitive.