AOPA Urges Pilot Privilege Extensions For Virus Considerations


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.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  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. I’m an AME and I get frequent emails from the FAA to remind me that they bare cutting NO SLACK to pilots and the regulations remain.

  3. 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.

  4. 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, 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    • Oh dear, Larry. As an 81 year old, remind me to stick with my current AME. Just passed day before yesterday, BTW, so I guess the skies will be unsafe for all of you for two more years 🙂

    • 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.

    • Larry … reading your article, I see you’re speaking out of two sides of your mouth and you’re not even making any sense. No wonder you’re thinking of hanging up YOUR spurs. You may have one of the dreaded “three” grounding issues for BasicMed?

      FIRST, you speak negatively about “75 year-old private pilot gets a Basic Med certificate from a family physician and is “good to go” for 4 years.” As if they should be buying their coffins and preparing their wills. BUNK! Then, at the end, you’re doing a Basic Med exam on a relatively young internal med specialist who states the (BasicMed) exam was the most thorough he had ever undergone. You go on to say, “(I) pointed out to him that a Basic Med exam is ever more 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. Really! Just where does it say that? I looked at the legislation and it doesn’t say anything like that. I think you’re making this up because YOU don’t like the idea of BasicMed. You’re intimating that a 3rd class is less invasive than BasicMed. Have you been drinking today? Maybe YOU have sleep apnea and didn’t get enough sleep. You’re not making any sense with your writeup here. And if YOUR FAA AME Region is telling you that, let me know which it is … read on.

      I’ll have you know — as John W and Walter R state — that in MY humble opinion, older pilots got to that age by being MORE careful than their 10 foot tall and bullet proof brethren. You know, the “Old / bold pilot” thing. Beyond that, experience only comes with age. Now add maturity and you have a golden situation. Most of them DO only just want to fly. Most own their own airplanes and only fly a few hours per month on nice VFR days in their local areas. For that they have to undergo an exam as you are describing … give us all a break here, dude.

      It’s AME’s like you that forced BasicMed to come into being … don’t you ‘get’ that? Sen. Jim Inhofe would have had it passed without ANY doctor visit had it not been for a couple of Senators with viewpoints like yours. I spoke with him several times and he’s still PO’ed at what he had to accept to get it through to legislation when a perfect storm opportunity presented itself.

      In a rural part of the Country where I hang out, I got wind that an AME who WAS doing BasicMed exams went to an AME conference and immediately thereafter discontinued BasicMed. The FAA AME’s in that region were mad that they’d lost business so they started scaring the AME’s who were going either way. At Airventure 2019, I brought this to the Sr AME from that Region and told him that if that didn’t stop NOW, a lawsuit would be forthcoming. Beyond that, I spoke with Sen Inhofe, brought the matter to his attention. He connected me with his staff and told me to keep him apprised of the situation. That FAA Region’s AME’s are now being “watched” closely as a result. BasicMed was INTENDED — and the legislation which brought it to law — doesn’t say anything like you’re describing. It DOES leave the exam up to the examiner but if the examiner goes to far, the pilots will “walk” and go elsewhere. That WAS the intent whether YOU like it, or not. I didn’t notice YOUR name in the legislation.

      Flying a simple single engine airplane under day VFR on a nice day for an hour or two does not need an exam as you are describing. If you have all your parts, can see the airplane and figure out how to start it … you’re good to go. Now then, get one of the dreaded three medical situations which require another Class 3 or Special Issuance … that’s different.

      Finally, at age 72.5, I see my medical fitness as being far above where many of the people my same age largely BECAUSE of aviation and because I spent over 20+ years in the military. I’m careful what I eat. I’m careful what I do. And I’m always cognizant that I want to fly until I decide it’s no longer a good idea. I won’t have some AME telling me this, that or otherwise. YOU are the type of AME that pilots shun.

      But then, I guess if you ground me, I can hop into my 45′ long tag axle diesel pusher RV towing a 30′ long mega trailer filled with golf carts and motorcycles and the like and roar down the Interstate highways and that’ll be OK. OR … I can buy a Piper Cub and fly it under Sport Pilot because — well — if I conk out in flight, the Cub will have less of an impact on someone on the ground than my C172.