BasicMed Pilot Ranks Growing Fast

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Over 15,000 pilots now have medical certification to fly through the FAA’s new BasicMed rule, which went into effect on May 1 of this year. The FAA estimates that at the end of 2016 there were roughly 162,000 active private pilots. Data isn’t yet available to assess the breakdown between pilots who have received BasicMed certification because they believed themselves unable to receive Third Class medical certification and pilots who sought BasicMed certification out of convenience, but the program is undeniably popular, winning over a significant portion of the pilot population in only three months.

To qualify under BasicMed pilots must complete an online medical course, get a medical exam from any doctor following the FAA BasicMed checklist, possess a valid U.S. driver’s license and have received a medical certificate that was valid after July 15, 2006. Pilots flying under BasicMed may fly aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds or less and are authorized to carry no more than six occupants, including the pilot. They may not fly above 18,000 feet MSL, and are limited to speeds not exceeding 250 knots. They also cannot fly for compensation or hire—except as flight instructors. The education course must be passed every two years, and the medical exam must be completed every four years.

Comments (13)


PLEASE edit this article, which erroneously asserts that, to qualify for BasicMed certification, an airman has to possess a Medical Certificate that was issued after July 4, 2016.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | August 11, 2017 11:38 AM    Report this comment

It's a lot cheaper to have an exam every 4 years (and to use regular doctors who are on insurance plans). This is a very good step, but personally I was hoping for just an expansion of the "LSA" rules to include 4 place trainer class aircraft and get rid of the medical completely for light planes. That would have been even easier and cheaper and probably a lot safe than flying a Sky Catcher...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 11, 2017 4:59 PM    Report this comment

Mark, we all would have liked that...but ALPA stabbed us in the back by convincing a Senator or two that we needed the extra paperwork and bureaucracy.

I'm the perfect guy for BasicMed, but my last medical was in the 90s, and I'm not about to jeopardize my Sport Pilot eligibility by applying for a Third Class medical I won't get without several thousand dollars in tests that insurance won't cover.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | August 12, 2017 12:24 AM    Report this comment

I'd like to know how many of the 15k BasicMed applicants have gotten a doctor to actually sign off on it? I tried 3, no joy.

Posted by: Brent Lee | August 12, 2017 2:56 PM    Report this comment

What was the issue for your non-signatures? Health or paper-phobia?

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | August 13, 2017 2:33 PM    Report this comment

My doctor, a GP, wouldn't sign it. He said he wasn't qualified to do so. I disagreed, but I respected his decision.

But, he referred me on the same day to his associate in the same practice who (unbeknownst to me) is an AME. The AME completed the exam and signed the paper, but I got the distinct feeling he really did not like doing it because he kept talking about the objections coming from OKC to this program. He said he holds his 3rd class guys to the same flight standards as the 1st class guys, and said "What do I do now with them?" I didn't really understand that comment but didn't ask for clarification. It was an uncomfortable meeting; not unlike when a police officer writes you a traffic ticket...sigh...I thought BasicMed was supposed to increase cooperation between pilot and doctor but I didn't get that feeling. But to his credit, he did follow through with it so I can't complain. Oh well, sometimes it really does takes an act of Congress to fix something.

I suspect when the world gets around, you will eventually have to go to an AME anyway for BasicMed because none of the GPs will want to stick their neck out for this.

Posted by: A Richie | August 13, 2017 9:17 PM    Report this comment

Well, until I can find a doctor willing to even try this out(I'm in NYC and no one, not in no less than 3 different clinics, will touch this with a 1000 foot pole, insurance they say). Of course an AME can still sign you off, but then what makes this any better than going for a real, standard ticket besides the extended time between AME visits? Honestly, new pilots like myself still have to go through SI hell(no changes whatsoever there--medical reform---yea right!!) to fly anything other than LSA, and this is a massive step BACKWARDS in helping any of us get to that place where flying real, FAA certified aircraft roam....and that's a real pity. This is not in any way true medical "reform", just another way for old pilots to stay up in the air a few more years at a slightly reduced cost if they are willing to give up some perks, period.

Just like LSA, they are going to run out of folks who even qualify for this and BasicMed will fade away like the bad idea it was to begin with, and GA will just join it in doing the same. I'm coming off as a bit cruel? Yep. I'm a new pilot wanna be and this is exactly the opposite of what real reform is, it's a massive compromise on what should have just been an expansion of a program that was working to a point to help GA, LSA, to allow safe, proven FAA certified aircraft to be used instead of the overpriced paper airplanes said class is currently employing, and it should have been pushed forever and ever in that direction instead of putting this schlock out there to fester and die off as it is ultimately going to do, along with all the old pilots that this is giving some new life to. GA is doomed, and no one in the FAA, or apparently whats left of the GA community, cares one bit about it.

Posted by: Michael Livote | August 14, 2017 6:30 AM    Report this comment

A Ritchie, I've encountered AMEs who had that kind of elitist attitude ("if you couldn't pass a First Class, you shouldn't be allowed to fly") and I've encountered AMEs who were clueless (one who had equipment for measuring vision, which he would not admit he had no idea how to use).

What's unfortunate is that there's no source of information about this. I know it's a potential hot potato, but there really is a need for a listing of "good" vs "bad" AMEs. And no, by "good" AMEs I don't mean "AMEs who would certificate a corpse", either. But it seems to me that no airman should ever again darken the door of the AME you describe, who "holds his third class guys to the same standard as first glass guys".

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 14, 2017 7:48 AM    Report this comment

I usually get a physical from my family doctor every 3-4 years anyway, so I just brought the paperwork with me for Basic Med. Everything was normal on my physical so he signed off the paperwork and I was done.

The whole process was simple and I have no complaints.

Posted by: Ric Lee | August 14, 2017 8:54 AM    Report this comment

I now know several pilots who have had absolutely no issue getting their family doctor to sign them off for BasicMed. The only "trick" I've heard regularly is bringing the form to the doctor's office a week before your visit so they can review it and you can answer any questions they may have ahead of time.

I would never knowingly visit an AME who holds "3rd class guys to the same flight standards as the 1st class guys". The whole point of having different class medicals is that a private pilot doesn't need to meet the same standards as someone who flies for a living. Does he fail 3rd-class applicants if they have 20/40 vision as required by a 3rd class, instead of the 20/20 vision required by 2nd and 1st-class medicals?

"Of course an AME can still sign you off, but then what makes this any better than going for a real, standard ticket besides the extended time between AME visits? "

If you "fail" the medical exam, it doesn't get reported to the FAA. And if you pass, it still doesn't get reported to the FAA (who could then just as easily over-rule the AME and deny or suspend your medical, or request additional potentially-expensive medical tests). This is especially useful for pilots who feel they might otherwise be denied a 3rd-class and want to leave Sport Pilot as a backup. With BasicMed, they can see if they will pass, and if not, they can use Sport Pilot.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | August 14, 2017 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Gary, for the record I submitted my paperwork plus a detailed explanation some 3 weeks before the scheduled physical. Still was declined on the day of exam based on the GP feeling he was unqualified to sign it. So, I for one can attest that this doesn't always work...

My old (since retired) AME was a fierce advocate for his pilots, and would go to bat for you for just about anything within reason. What a fantastic help he was. Those are the guys that need to be sought out and rewarded with tons of business!

Posted by: A Richie | August 14, 2017 2:02 PM    Report this comment

I had my Basic Med exam done today with no problem at all. I found a non-AME Doc who is a pilot and knows the new rules. He stated that someone needs to write an informative article about the new ruling and get it published in the leading medical journals in order to educate physicians so they will be informed that it perfectly legal for any state licensed physician to perform the Basic Med exam. Before meeting him I had approached two local AME's who both refused to do a Basic Med. Even though the the new rules do not prevent an AME from performing a Basic Med exam, apparently it is not in their financial interest to do so. I agree with my physician that education on the new law should be published in the major medical journals which are commonly read by the physician community. If anyone reading this has contacts that could help getting that done please act on this. I believe that this would be the best way to get the news out.

Posted by: Madison Mock | August 14, 2017 10:32 PM    Report this comment

I am a diabetic pilot who had been able to manage it with oral medications and exercise for over 20 years. Finally, last year, I had to start on insulin injections and give up my Class I medical and, after seven months and a host of expensive tests, go for a special-issuance Class III medical. That medical finally made it through the FAA in February, 5 months, two FAA letters, and an erroneously issued denial later. I'd be a perfect candidate for LSA except for that denial. So I figured it'd be worth a shot to try and get the BasicMed certification. I happened to have a regularly scheduled diabetes followup with my doctor and decided to show him the paperwork involved and, after giving him some time to review it, ask him if he would do the exam and fill out the form. To my great surprise, he took one look at it, filled it out, signed it, and handed it back to me with no issues or concerns. So I have both a Class III and BasicMed. I plan to keep the Class III active, as it has provides professional benefits. When those benefits are no longer needed, I'll stay with BasicMed. I feel for those who've had issues getting it from their docs; mine couldn't have been more accommodating.

Posted by: William Mills | August 15, 2017 8:18 PM    Report this comment

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