AOPA, EAA Ask FAA To Relax Medical Rule

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On Tuesday, AOPA and EAA submitted to the FAA a request (PDF) to expand the opportunities for pilots to fly without having a third-class medical. If the FAA agrees to allow an exemption to the rules, pilots would be able to fly thousands of qualifying GA aircraft with just a driver's license, a pilot certificate, and a certificate of completion (within the last 24 months) from an online course in aeromedical issues and self-certification. The online course would be free to anyone, not just EAA or AOPA members, through AOPA's Air Safety Institute website. The request notes that the FAA now has seven years of data showing that sport pilots, who are not required to carry a medical, have not had any accidents as a result of incapacitation due to medical deficiencies.

EAA and AOPA note that 50 percent of accidents in S-LSAs between 2006 and 2010 were classified by the NTSB as instructional or transition flights. Some of those accidents could be avoided, the petition says, if pilots were allowed to continue flying without a medical in the airplanes they are familiar with. The petition lists a number of restrictions on the aircraft types and the operations that would be allowed under the exemption -- for example, the airplane must have a single engine, fixed gear, no more than four seats, and no more than 180 hp. The pilot must self-assess that he or she is medically capable of the flight and must pay "at least pro rata share of aircraft expenses." No more than one passenger is allowed. Other details can be found in the groups' 41-page proposal (PDF). A petition from David Wartofsky, manager of Potomac Airfield, asking the FAA to change the rule, was denied last month.

AVweb's Mary Grady spoke with Kristine Hartzell, AOPA's manager of regulatory affairs, for more details about plan, the strategy behind it, and what happens next. Click here to listen to the podcast.