AOPA Urges Pilot Privilege Extensions For Virus Considerations

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Canada has extended medical privileges for as much as four months for pilots whose medicals expire before June 1 and AOPA is asking for similar consideration and more for U.S. pilots. AOPA says it is now working with the FAA to figure out what to do about pilots whose medicals expire at the end of March and can’t get an appointment because of coronavirus measures. In Canada, as of March 17, anyone whose medical expires before June 1 can keep flying until Aug. 1 on the old medical. Transport Canada also told its Civil Aviation Medical Examiners to not book any appointments before May 1 to prevent unnecessary strain on the medical system. Meanwhile, medicals are just one of several time-related issues facing pilots that AOPA wants the FAA to address.

In a letter to the FAA, AOPA President Mark Baker said that since renewals of so many privileges require personal contact much closer than the recommended six feet of social distancing, pilots need alternatives to keep flying. “For example, federal requirements require pilots to renew their medical certificate in person, to complete their pilot certification examinations within a certain amount of time, and to complete knowledge tests at off-site testing facilities,” he wrote. “The current restrictions to the U.S. population create an impossible barrier for these individuals to meet the necessary airman and aircraft requirements.”

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I had my first class medical done a month early to avoid exactly what this article is about. Should be interesting to see how the FAA handles all the recurrent training and check rides that will be due. This could shut down the pt135 operators who use FlightSafety or CAE for these training events depending on the “Stay at home” orders some governors are rushing to issue!

  2. Since doctors are considered “essential businesses” and presumably are still conducting the exams, in most cases I can’t see any problem. It’s the same as going out to buy groceries.

    Now, if your doc isn’t seeing patients because he’s in isolation, that’s a different story.

  3. I am also an AME and a radiation oncologist. While doctors may be considered “essential business,” I am experiencing remarkable interpretations of what services are considered “essential.” The governor issued an order last week stating the following: Physicians should postpone elective and non-urgent procedures and office visits immediately. This action will help the healthcare system preserve resources and personnel necessary to meet emerging health needs. ”

    Some institutions have decided that cancer diagnostic and screening procedures are “elective.” Yale University has issued a statement that states it doesn’t consider cancer surgery “elective.” The collateral fall out from some of this will be long felt.

    When the president touted tele-medicine, I was hopeful, if not for new medicals, then for those who we knew and could help. Not so, the FAA sent a specific email stating specifically telemedicine is unacceptable and requires a face to face, hands on medical evaluation. If it is acceptable for my much sicker medicare cancer patients, it should be reasonable for the FAA to at least consider extending medicals for a few months until this situation settles out.

    These are the rules. The old Chinese curse has come true: “May you live in interesting times.”

    • I’m an internist and was expecting that although my retirement portfolio would be decimated my business would thrive. I’m astonished how my practice has been decimated as well.

      Most of my chronic patients (diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, hypertension, cancer etc.) have been staying away in droves. They are hiding under the bed watching CNN and getting sicker and sicker without medical care. The repercussions of over-reaction will reverberate for a long time.

      I’m a Yale alumnus (residency and chief residency) and ashamed of their (over) reaction.

      God bless you and hope you and your patients weather this man made storm well.

      Bill

      • Bill, Greetings.
        Yale is one of the good guys that basically says cancer care is not to be deferred, including diagnostic procedures. Our friends on the opposite coast are saying they are deferrable. I’m a Michigan guy and we recruited some fabulous Yale alums and faculty back in the day. Great school.

        My concern with flight physicals, is do we do them or not? The risk is a two way street: bring ’em in and hope no one else in the clinic is sick and they are not, or let them wait. With the FAA’s present deferral, until June 30, the folks that already have a medical can press on.

        A bigger concern I have is the pre-solo student who is about to solo. They are not eligible for basic med, can’t solo until the ticket is in hand, or they switch to light sport. I’m doing BMeds for those I know well, but the liability laws in my primary state preclude doing anything but FAA physicals there, so they have to cross state lines. It’s a far bigger issue than a lot of people realize.

        Blessings to you and your practice as well. Hang in there!

  4. There are several businesses that have not been determined to be essential that with their closure is interfering with constitutional rights, one of them being medical. The lack of flexibility of the FAA should be a reminder to those alphabet groups who supported Mr.Dickson as administrator. Problem is the deadline issue for pilots is more than just medical expirations. If the FAA doesn’t do something soon, the grounding of pilots do to lack of recurrent training and checkrides will eventually put the FAA out of business. With courts shutting down there is little a person can do to challenge some of the excessive illegal actions most of the states’ governors are getting away with.

  5. So, should Class 1 privileges be extended for 69 year-old airline pilots?
    How about 82 year-old private pilots?
    As an AME I used to see too many, in my opinion, 75-85 year old private pilots who “just want to fly,” These people are now, probably, using basic med. Think about it. A 75 year-old private pilot gets a Basic Med certificate from a family physician and is “good to go” for 4 years.
    My point is, most of us think giving a reprieve for a 50 year-old private pilot for several weeks would be OK. But how about the 75+ year old who “just wants to fly?”
    I am 74 years old, and I think it’s time to hang up the piloting spurs. Over the years, I have seen, maybe, 2 80+ year old pilots who seemed to have it all together to fly. Many 65+ year olds are questionable. Extend the medical certificate for a pilot on 2-3 meds for type 2 diabetes, one medication for hypertension, and sleep apnea? Does anyone really think that is a good idea?
    I had one one 85 year-old pilot tell me that he was going to go for Basic Med, “because I don’t think I can pass a 3rd class medical.” Really?
    So, if you think there should be a postponement of FAA medical exams for pilots, how long should it be, and who gets the extension? Class 1s? Airlines aren’t going to go for that. 70+ year- olds with class 3s?
    About a year ago, I did a class 3 medical on a relatively young internal medicine specialist. He and his partners were doing Basic Med medicals. When I finished his examination, he said it was the “most thorough” physical examination he had ever had. I pointed out to him that a Basic Med exam is ever m ore extensive than a Class 3 with regard to vision testing. and the 50+ blood tests, ECG, and chest x-ray that he does for annual medicals do not substitute for a thorough physical examination.

    • Dear John and Larry,
      As a former spring pup, I agree with you John. I got my comm/MEL & SES from an 83 years old instructor and former FAA inspector. Best training I ever got. That guy had more stick and rudder and just plain practical common sense knowledge in his baby toenail than the flight instructors my age building time for airlines. I think for every minute I flew with him, I learned what took 2 hours with the youngsters. It would be a privilege to fly with you sir.