AOPA Report Sings The Praises Of The BasicMed Initiative


The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has released this report on the BasicMed initiative, saying it “has kept safe pilots flying and free from unnecessary red tape and delays over the past five years.”

Based on NTSB data, the AOPA Air Safety Institute report cited a general aviation accident rate—including pilots flying on a BasicMed certificate—that is at its lowest level in decades. It has dropped consistently year-over-year since the 1990s, the Institute said. The BasicMed rule was signed by President Obama in 2016 and became available for pilots in May 2017.

AOPA President Mark Baker believes BasicMed is a significant piece of that safety puzzle. He wrote, “BasicMed is delivering on its promise: keeping pilots safe, educated, engaged—and flying. Because of this foresight, more than 66,000 pilots have successfully qualified to fly under BasicMed. Pilots, instructors, the FAA, Congress, and other key stakeholders continue to praise BasicMed, and other countries have authorized U.S. pilots with a BasicMed certification to fly in their airspace.”

For example, Mexico and the Bahamas allow U.S. pilots flying under BasicMed to operate within their airspace and use their airports.

AOPA has services available for pilots looking to qualify. The association can help pilots determine eligibility, show them how to apply and supply a checklist for review by the pilot and physician. AOPA can also help find a participating doctor and has an online medical course.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Having to renew a special issuance 1st class cert the last five years of my career was onerous and expensive even though I was a picture of health and the outcome was never in doubt. Now in retirement and on BasicMed I keep as fit and I take the same medical tests at the same intervals I always took for the special issuance but don’t have to go through an expensive FAA whisperer to get the FAA to bless the results. My specialist interprets and blesses the results now and I am better educated and no less safe than when I was renewing a SI 1st class.

  2. I think Basic med is overall very good, but has several flaws that were engineered in because of government bureaucracy but overall a benefit to the medically imperfect GA pilot.

    I’d like to see it extended to 2nd Class.

    • The only two real flaws I can think of are 1) the silliness over PIC vs required crewmember when acting as a safety pilot (and that’s because the FAA was mad at being overruled by congress so they just copy/pasted the wording without concern of the implications), and 2) it’s not accepted in Canada (but that’s more to do with international politics).

      And it’s not just the “medically imperfect GA pilot” that it benefits. Other than not being able to fly into Canada and having to accept that I’m legally the PIC when acting as a safety pilot, I would get zero benefit from renewing my 3rd-class. I could get it renewed, but why should I bother paying the extra cost for the exam and having to worry about what ridiculous hoops the FAA might put me through this time only to ultimately say “yep, you’re perfectly healthy, here’s your standard 3rd-class”.

      • Could you please expand your safety pilot statement. How does Basic Med/Class 3 change the status of the safety pilot?

        • BasicMed only applies to the PIC, not to a required crewmember (as a safety pilot would be). If you’re acting as a safety pilot and you’re under a BM medical, you are required to be the PIC (and of course, you must meet all the other requirements of actually being the PIC).

          See for more details.

          • Thanks
            I did not understand that basic med did not apply to acting as a “required crewmember” but only as PIC. Probably has ramifications in other situations although for most Part 91 ops maybe safety pilot is the only “required crewmember” situation that would fit other basic med limitations.

  3. Still useless for prospective pilots with any form of medical condition as it needs you to pass the medical-everyone-hates just to get it in the first place. I’m sure all the old folks out there using it to keep flying praise it, but for us folks hoping to fly real aircraft (non LSA) knowing we wouldn’t stand a chance passing that aforementioned medical right from the out due to the vastly outdated and simply wrong attitude of the FAA we are still waiting, perhaps until we die, for the piece if legislation this should have been in the first place.

    • I forgot about that flaw as well, probably because I already had a valid 3rd class. I hope to see the requirement for an FAA-validated medical to eventually go away. And there is hope for that, since it took several years after Sport Pilot was introduced that BM was introduced.

  4. I love the basic med concept, but the problem is that you still need a class 3 to qualify. My last one was in 94, and after 2 months I still haven’t received my old FAA med records so that I can fill out a new class 3 medical form without committing “perjury”. I had been dinged on this years ago when there was a minor discrepancy on what I reported in the past, and with the FAA’s current attitude on things like that, I don’t want to make that mistake. It would be best just to drop the requirement for the class 3 to start basic med. However being 67, I don’t have much hope for that.

  5. The questions for those who have a substantial medical condition include:
    – how are you managing it?
    – what is the risk of incapacitation?

    Diabetes can be managed, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be managed so you get proper sleep, angina cannot be unless you have a co-pilot or a take-me-home autopilot

    (Angina is not a high risk on the road, unless you drive a motorcycle thus are likely to get cold.

    How you get competent medical evaluation and advice is a question, doctors leaving the field, …..

  6. Seems OK but:

    Basic Med form/exam close to identical to the Class 3 form. If you can honestly pass a Basic Med you should be able to pass a Class 3. Main difference to me is that, unlike the class 3 medical, if the physician can’t sign you off it doesn’t go to FAA for review.

    Main problem is availability of physicians to sign you off for basic med. In the SF bay area the AOPA Basic Med physician finder lists 7 physicians for a population of approximately 5 million souls. Nine pop up but one a duplicate and one retired.

    People say go to a DOT examiner but most of those are RN/PA and not state licensed physicians so no good for basic med.

    I asked my AME why he did not do Basic Med and said that it was related to insurance since the liability profile (thus insurance cost) was very different between an AME and a physician signing off basic med. Perhaps because an AME is acting as an agent of the FAA and not really “your” physician. Also many large health systems do not allow their physicians to sign off Basic Med.

    • I wasn’t aware of the AOPA’s “BascMed finder” (and even a quick search on their website, I could only find information on how a doctor can add themselves to the list, but now where to actually search the list). But I suspect that the database only contains confirmed doctors and that the actual list of doctors is significantly greater. The easiest way to find out if your physician will sign off on BasicMed…is simply to ask them. I’ll bet my personal physician isn’t in the AOPA database, but I’ve been signed off twice already. It’s basically just like any other medical waiver that they may be asked to sign.

      I’ll add that the biggest difference between the 3rd class medical and BM medical form is that the FAA can’t decide to have some faceless doctor overrule your own doctor (like they can an AME for a 1-3rd class medical) and either deny the medical or request unnecessary extra paperwork.

      • “I suspect that the database only contains confirmed doctors and that the actual list of doctors is significantly greater”

        Sadly not what I found. All but one of the doctors listed for southern California said, when called, that they don’t do BasicMed “anymore”. The remaining one was an AME who asked me to bring all the medical documentation that had supported my last Class 3, plus this, that and the other, and it became clear that the basic message was “if you aren’t asking for a Class 3, I believe you must be medically unfit, and I’m going to find out why”.

        I don’t know what has been scaring doctors off, but something has. My guess: someone has been making up scary tales about legal liability.

        In many states, Chiropractors will sign BasicMed because they do DOT Physicals so they carry enough insurance not to worry about it. But, in California a Chiropractor is not a licensed medical doctor (it varies state by state) so that route doesn’t exist.

        I asked my own doctor. He rather awkwardly ignored the question. I need a new doctor.

        The biggest difference between BM and 3rd Class: if your doctor won’t sign it, you can still fly with Sport Pilot privileges, while you look for a new doctor who will (which, in CA, may take a while). Second-biggest difference: avoiding unnecessary tests and paperwork.

        • That’s curious. Are these AMEs or primary care physicians? I can understand AMEs being reluctant to sign them, but not PCPs, since it’s just another medical waiver to them.

          Prior to the first time I had my PCP fill out the form, I sent the office in advance of my physical the excellent information AOPA has available for doctors about BM, and highlighted (with a marker) the important parts; particularly the parts that make it clear that it is ultimately the pilot who is responsible for their health. I am not aware of anyone I personally know in my area (CT) who wasn’t able to get their PCP to sign the BM form.

  7. You aren’t likely to find many AMEs that will do Basic Med too. Kind of like sleeping with the enemy. The liability insurance issue seems to be a big deal with AMEs, but I know a few doctors who don’t feel it is a problem. And, from an actuarial standpoint, the actual exposure to an underwriter is not huge, given that in five years there have been few if, any, claims relating to accidents involving Basic Med where a 3rd class medical would have made any difference.

    I was an early adopter of Basic Med because I was tired of jumping through the endless hoops for a special issuance for a 3rd class. The problem that dumped me into SI in the first place was more of a hang-up with the FAA’s definitions than an actual medical problem. My main concern was that if I was ever turned down for the SI, I would then be ineligible for a sport license to drop down to flying LSAs. This way, that is not a problem. I am fortunate that my personal physician (who also does DOT medicals) looked at the form and shrugged. “No problem” he said. The current Basic Med program is far from perfect, as others have said, but it does greatly simplify flying for a lot of us older guys whose health is not perfect (whose is anyway?). I feel better having my personal doctor in charge of the process than having some guy I see once every two years, for about 20 minutes, deciding whether I am fit or not.

    • It would be helpful if we had a place to record AMEs who refuse to do BM. That way, pilots could start to avoid them for their higher-class medicals, and work with someone who will do BM when the time comes.

    • I would argue that pilots who follow the BM process (whether they also get a 3rd-class or not) are actually less likely to have a medical issue in flight than those who only go for a 3rd class when required (and might not even see their PCP very often). And we all know that even a 1st-class doesn’t really provide any assurance that you are medically fit.

      In my flying club, we actually had a very close call with a member who had a valid 3rd-class. Almost as soon as he got out of the plane after landing he keeled over and couldn’t be revived. And his passenger was not a pilot.

      An FAA medical (of any class) isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on if the pilot doesn’t take charge of their own health with regular wellness or physical exams and an honest self-evaluation of how they are feeling prior to each flight.