Dropping the Third Class Medical: Good Idea?

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Is it time to eliminate the Third Class medical requirement? Reader Steve Waechter wrote me last week to remind me that I promised to lend support to this idea. So I'm following up to do just that. But to tell you the truth, I'm not as sure about this as others seem to be. As you may know, Potomac Airfield owner David Wartofsky has petitioned the FAA to consider this proposal. His idea is that for pilots flying aircraft under 6000 pounds, no medical should be required for private-use flying. Here are some details.

The idea here is two-fold. One is that only a small percentage of accidents—under one percent—are the result of pilot impairment and, second, you self-certify between medicals anyway, so what good do the examinations really do? Not much, I'd guess. I have two misgivings. The first is how pilots do the self-certification game, the second has to do with unintended consequences.

Following the SAFE conference in Atlanta two weeks ago, I spent a number of hours poring over NTSB accident reports. According to my sweep, pilot incapacitation or medical issues comes up more often than one percent. "Comes up" means that it's mentioned in the factual, but is not necessarily determinative. Conversely, it could be just as true that some accidents in which incapacitation isn't mentioned may very well have been caused by a medically unfit pilot. I think NTSB investigations just lack the granularity to nail these things down accurately.

Furthermore, pilots don't always do the best job of self-certification. They fly while using medications that either aren't approved or are debilitating, they fly with conditions that wouldn't get past even a Third Class exam and everyone knows a basic survival rule is to never have your family doc and AME be the same guy.

All of this is to say I think pilot incapacitation is a slightly larger safety issue than it's made out to be, but not so large as to justify the large bureaucracy and expense necessary to maintain the Third Class, at least to current standards. Because of the way some—maybe most—pilots self-certify, it's just not clear to me that the Third Class exam makes much difference. You can hide stuff from your AME, but you can't hide it from yourself. And you fly anyway. So what's the point?

But if the Third Class goes away, there will be immediate and substantial impact on the LSA market and that's the unintended consequence. Although the LSA idea was conceived to bring new people into aviation at lower costs, what it is in fact doing is keeping older pilots in the cockpit longer because they don't need to sweat the medical. Nearly every LSA manufacturer we've talked to relies heavily on the "full-circle" older buyer who is cashing out a Bonanza or Skylane and continuing on with an LSA. "If the Third Class is dropped," Frank Woodward at Eastman Aviation told me last month, "we are out of business."

Absurd as it sounds, we have built an entire aviation segment—and not a very strong one, yet—on the fear of FAA medical certification. That just doesn't make sense to me, so I reluctantly conclude that it's time to sunset the Third Class. One way of doing it might be to relax the standards for a few years before eliminating it entirely.

But either way, it's not going to be the free ride some people imagine it to be.

Comments (149)

"Absurd as it sounds, we have built an entire aviation segment..on the fear of FAA medical certification."

Absurd? You know very well that LSA requirements were written specifically to exclude existing USA trainer designs! It was deliberate attempt build a new segment that was based on arbitrary rules from the EU.
What is absurd is that the USA FAA waved medicals in the first place knowing full well that there is not one lick of difference between a 1340# plane and a 1600# plane when it comes to pilot self-enforcement or safety issues. Waving the medial at this point should be a non-issue from a logical and reasoned standpoint.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 23, 2011 1:21 PM    Report this comment

I support the elimination of the Third Class Medical for GA aircraft under 6000#. The resources spent by both the FAA and pilots could be better spent in other areas. If this rule was enacted, I believe it would have little or no effect on overall safety.

Secondly, I think its inappropriate to tie the safety issue of eliminating the Third Class medical to the impact on the LSA market. That's a little like saying if we lower tax rates we'd need fewer IRS agents therefore we have to keep tax rates high.

Posted by: Rick Ott | May 23, 2011 1:41 PM    Report this comment

I think that the strongest incentive to self regulate accurately (besides our own innate honesty), is the statement that you swear to when you sign your medical. This acknowleges the penalties you face if you are caught in a lie about your lack of medical deficiencies. Why not let us self regulate, and swear to it! Basic things, that are easily quantified, such as vision, could be supplied by our own practicioners. This is done routinely with state motor vehicle departments.

Posted by: Steve Tobias | May 23, 2011 2:03 PM    Report this comment

Interesting point, Mark...and I thought that the weight, power, and performance limitations were put in place to keep pilots trained to a lesser standard out of trouble. It looks to me, however, that many of these LSA designs outperform the old C150 that I trained in years ago, in every catagory! The maximum of 2 seats is the only limitation that makes any sense to me...it limits the risk to only 2 people!

Posted by: Steve Tobias | May 23, 2011 2:10 PM    Report this comment

"LSA idea was conceived to bring new people into aviation at lower costs"

Actually, I suspect it was just a way to leverage EU standards and boost EU manufacturers. If more people and lower prices were the ACTUAL goals then simply eliminating medicals and flight hour requirements on all simple/slow 2 aircraft could have done that!

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 23, 2011 3:14 PM    Report this comment

Rather than ending the third class medical for the private pilot license it may be more palatable to the FAA, thus more likely to be enacted, to consider allowing self-certification as part of a revamped recreational pilot license. The risk is still limited to two people, although recreational pilots can fly with a couple of empty seats as well. Operations would still be limited to daytime VFR conditions.

Posted by: Paul Barker | May 23, 2011 3:17 PM    Report this comment

Here's a clue: 1320 lb = 600 kg.

A very experienced Cessna/Piper man has told me that the low-wing European LSA I'm training on is the most demanding aircraft, handling-wise, he's flown. (I'm not bragging, just saying.)

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | May 23, 2011 3:21 PM    Report this comment

"Interesting point, Mark...and I thought that the weight, power, and performance limitations were put in place to keep pilots trained to a lesser standard out of trouble."

Fraser puts the emphasis where it will most suit his version of reality. His comment has nothing to do with the point at hand. The weight (and size) of LSAs had to be low to support the overriding goal of making them small, light and cheap (er). Reproducing the Cessna 150 wouldn't make sense, nor would have making, say, 2000 pounds the weight limit.

The actual 1320-pound limit is somewhat arbitrary because it was meant to grandfather in a small number of legacy designs without gutting the development of new ones.

What he fails to understand is that no one knew nor necessarily could have foreseen the degree to which the industry would depend on older pilots in fear of losing their medicals. For some LSA companies, it's close to all of their business.

F37 got it about right, I think. They were trying to invent a standard to build a new industry out of thin air. Nobody knew which way it would go or how it would be received. Jacking up the weight limit wouldn't have changed that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 23, 2011 3:30 PM    Report this comment

Adding 300lbs would have made thousands of existing low-cost aircraft legal for LSA, resulting in market incentive to lower the price point on new designs. IMO.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | May 23, 2011 4:44 PM    Report this comment

Nothing seems to get some pilots upset like the third class medical. I'm a sport pilot by training with over 600 hours in an Aeronca and T-craft. I have no problems with the limitations and hope the third class stays as is. The only reason I can think of pilots wanting to get rid of it is because they may believe they will fail a physical sometime in the future. I understand that. Perhaps as more older pilots find the need to step into the LSA world the prices will come down as more sales typically can lead to lower per unit costs. Hey it's time to step away from that 150 to the better performance of a new airframe and updated technology. I enjoy my Aeronca but the engine technology is from 1939 and let's not even talk about the lack of electrical to run a transponder and radio. I'm looking forward to a new airframe with rotax and some glass technology. The efficiency of the 100ULS is hard to beat and the ability to burn mogas with ethanol is a huge plus. I plan on flying for another 30 years but my 64 year old airframe, and the majority of the current older fleet, probably shouldn't be.

Posted by: Jay Manor | May 23, 2011 4:46 PM    Report this comment

Light-weight aircraft are in many ways more difficult to fly than heavier ones, especially landing with any kind of wind, so the LSA limits seem just plain arbitrary to me.

I'm all for eliminating the 3rd class. Use a driver's license combined with something like the BFR. (I know, that's a separate subject...)

I'd even be willing to send a signed statement to the FAA that I'm still healthy enough to fly.

Posted by: PAUL HEKMAN | May 23, 2011 4:47 PM    Report this comment

There's a lot of silly, antiquated, prejudiced, arbitrary, catch-22-style bull on the 3rd class medical. And yet the FAA can and does use it to fail healthy people with treatable conditions and (bonus!) thereby make them illegal for sport pilot, as well. Way to go bureaucrats!

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | May 23, 2011 5:57 PM    Report this comment

"What he fails to understand is that no one knew nor necessarily could have foreseen the degree to which the industry would depend on older pilots in fear of losing their medicals?

And what Paul fails to understand is that I too considered LSA for THE SOLE REASON of the medical waiver. When the choice becomes no flying or LSA, of course you sell the Cirrus and buy a dinky LSA. Something is better than nothing...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 23, 2011 6:10 PM    Report this comment

Well then, Mark, too bad you weren't on F37. You could have set them straight with your point of view. No one I have talked to in this industry foresaw the degree to which its initial stages, as anemic as they are, would have been driven by older pilots. I guess they're all just too dumb to have seen it.

The fact is, the LSA industry can't continue to exist on full-circle pilots. It needs much more new blood than it is in fact getting.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 23, 2011 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Anyone who did not see the industry making a huge sales pitch to aging aviators was clueless or is fibbing. Even the RV-12 design criteria mentions it as a "retirement" airplane for pilots entering the "casual flying" phase of their flying life, quite possibly driven by medical considerations."

The fact is, the LSA industry fears the waving of the 3rd class medical. If it's waived, then the competitive advantage of LSA is (almost)completely gone.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 23, 2011 8:39 PM    Report this comment

A small percentage of accidents involve medical problems.These accidents involve pilots WITH medical
certificates. If no medicals were required would that small percentage still hold? Just wondering. I keep myself in good shape and get physicals with my
family doctor (who used to be an AME) regularly so
I'm all for eliminating the 3rd class medical.

Posted by: Joe Sikora | May 23, 2011 10:37 PM    Report this comment

The majority of members in our flying club are older pilots flying under Sport Pilot rules, purely based on the medical issue. We have a smaller number of very young people who are going with our LSAs purely for cost, but for most it's the medical issue.

I notice that the majority of people against the dropping of medicals are those who never had a problem getting one. They have no idea what a life-changing issue it is for those who have their main passion or dream in life curtailed - sometimes for good reason, many times purely on bureaucratic rather than practical or common-sense grounds. Personally, I am as fit as they come; no problems ever, no family history, no medications, never had to see a doctor in my life except the AME. But I'll never be a commercial pilot- all I ever wanted to be since I was a kid - because my left eye won't correct better than 20/40 (which is fine for Class 3), Now name one incident where that little difference has ever caused a problem - it's an arbitrary rule arrived at by some committee, not based on any practical, real world data. Just how much time does an airline pilot spend with his hawk-eyes out the window spotting the Hun in the sun anyway? If anything they ought to relax the vision requirements for ATPs!

End of personal rant about arbitrary medical rules.

Posted by: PETER THOMAS | May 23, 2011 11:12 PM    Report this comment

I believe that LSA market has some value. a wide cabin trainer that will cruise at 120 knots on 5 gal/hr is great! However who is willing to buy 1 LSA trainer for $120,000 when you can buy 5 used 152's for the same price (and use them for IFR training as well)? No, the driving force of the LSA market IS FALSE! When ever you see smart people doing dumb things, you can bet that the government has something to do with it. My point is we never needed the AEROMEDICAL division of the FAA!! On any level they provide no benefit to anyone but themselves! If I want to fly my airplane, what do doctors have to say about it? I am not going to put my family in an airplane when I don't feel well enough to fly. If something happens, I'm the only one who can it. Now I realize that when you fly people for hire, the rules change. Righty so! But, If your company is willing to let you fly a $200 million dollar airplane with 300 passengers on board (a billion dollars of liability)I think the insurance carrier would object! It takes a lot of hard work to get a pilots license and Intelligent people don"t need the government to think for them. Morons don't follow the rules anyway! They wonlt follow the rules no matter what you do, The only people who follow the rules, don't need them! They are smart enough to think for themselves. General aviation is expensive enough without feeding Doctors, Lawyers and Buriocrats!!

Posted by: JEROME LAFOREST | May 24, 2011 7:16 AM    Report this comment

Anyone who has lots of pilot friends or reads TAP knows the number of middle age pilots who are forced to give up their planes because of the medical. The Bob Hoover case sticks in my mind as the MONUMENTAL problem it is to regain a medical if it's ever suspended for ANY reason. Older pilots do "fear" loosing it all because of the medical. Please, ask around.

As far as new F37 standards, anyone remotely connected with aviation knows that it's incredibly expensive to re-design, re-tool, and re-certify aircraft. All that does nothing to "lower cost" nor "increase safety". Again it's contrary to it's stated goal.

My suggestion: RELAX restrictions based on hours and years flown. The longer you fly without incident, NTSB and Insurance companies AGREE that the less likely you will have a PIC related accident of any kind. Also if you maintain 75-100 hr/year, wave the bi-annual for GA pilots as well.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 24, 2011 8:13 AM    Report this comment

"Morons don't follow the rules anyway! They won't follow the rules no matter what you do, The people who follow the rules, don't need them!"


You make a sound point. Everyone has to realize that bureaucracies design their rules and regulations for the lowest common denominators of skill, aptitude, maturity, and intelligence. Most reasonable, mature pilots already know when they aren't medically fit to fly -- whether on some high-powered medication, or their heads are stuffed up with a serious head cold.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | May 24, 2011 3:59 PM    Report this comment

My off-the-cuff impression is most of the NTSB reports that do mention pilot impairment involve speculation over the possible contributory but non-disabling effects of things as allergy pills, pain meds, mood altering drugs, etc.

Much more rare are the classic sudden-onset "medical exam" problems (e.g. heart attack) due to some underlying medical condition that might (or might not) have been uncovered by a third class medical.

Personally, I would welcome the dropping of the 3rd class and don't think it would cause any major problems. If that can't happen, a very useful compromise step would be to drop the restriction on self-certifying for sport pilot if a medical has been lifted or denied for some reason.

Here's an interesting question: How many medically-caused accidents have befallen those pilots - and I think most of us have known or at least been aware of such - who do the ultimate self-certification and simply continue to fly sans medical?

Posted by: John Wilson | May 24, 2011 5:32 PM    Report this comment

The comments here regarding LSAs when the issue is eliminating the 3rd Class medical only reinforces my point of why link the two issues. One can easily make the point that the LSA market has stolen sales from other GA market, as well as lowering prices of used aircraft. If the 3rd class medical was eliminated for aircraft under 6000# would sales of C182s, Cirrus, Cherokees and Bonanzas increase. Of course they would.

Safety and selling airplanes are two separate issues.

Posted by: Rick Ott | May 24, 2011 5:35 PM    Report this comment

The Ted Stevens NTSB report really points up the idiocy of FAA medical policy. You can regain your medical after a stroke, but you can't get a medical while on antidepressants.

Come on.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | May 24, 2011 6:21 PM    Report this comment

Link to Gary Crump's "Unintended Consequences" post, in disguised form to defeat AvWeb's tedious link discouragers: blog.aopa.org /medsense/?p=41 . You'll have to remove a space before '/'.

Posted by: James DeLaHunt | May 25, 2011 1:47 AM    Report this comment

I'll go beyond eliminating third class medicals - I recommend eliminating the whole FAA medical establishment. Aviation physiology is no longer the mystery it was back in the 1920s and 30s, and local Aviation Medical Examiners can certify pilots without the FAA's onerous medical certification establishment. Eliminating CAMI would save millions of FAA funds, and collectively save U.S. pilots even more millions.

That doesn't mean that the FAA should ignore medical standards or not establish rules and regulations regarding pilot health, but the FAA should only monitor, not actively participate in the certification process. Instead, the FAA regulations should require commercial aviation companies to meet pilot medical certification standards as it now does for pilot proficiency and maintenance standards. Why not a similar system for pilot medical certification?

Posted by: Charles Brame | May 25, 2011 2:28 AM    Report this comment

Keep in mind a third class physical only says on the date of the exam you were seen by a doctor you were healthy, met minimum requirements, screened for conditions & medication (based on the person's entries) and released to fly. The other 729+ days (1824 days for those under 40) are based on the holder's honesty and personal assessment. The time between physicals doesn't make it credible and since the FAA doctor is not your primary care provider, may not be privy to the whole truth and can't make a real diagnosis based on half an hour, a blood pressure and eye chart. A lot of holes exist in the system which boil it down to the person needing to be honest with themselves and whether they should put their life or someone elses life at risk. Unfortunately people do it every day in cars.

Posted by: DOUG HANSEN | May 25, 2011 6:33 AM    Report this comment

Keep in mind a third class physical only says on the date of the exam you were seen by a doctor you were healthy, met minimum requirements, screened for conditions & medication (based on the person's entries) and released to fly. The other 729+ days (1824 days for those under 40) are based on the holder's honesty and personal assessment. The time between physicals doesn't make it credible and since the FAA doctor is not your primary care provider, may not be privy to the whole truth and can't make a real diagnosis based on half an hour, a blood pressure and eye chart. A lot of holes exist in the system which boil it down to the person needing to be honest with themselves and whether they should put their life or someone elses life at risk. Unfortunately people do it every day in cars.

Posted by: DOUG HANSEN | May 25, 2011 6:33 AM    Report this comment

You all miss the most basic point. It's a liberty issue, not a safety issue. Big Brother is too intrusive in our lives and shouldn't be telling us what we can or can't do. Get rid of the medical, period.

Posted by: Gary Caron | May 25, 2011 6:52 AM    Report this comment

I'll go beyond eliminating third class medicals - I recommend eliminating the whole FAA medical establishment. Aviation physiology is no longer the mystery it was back in the 1920s and 30s, and local Aviation Medical Examiners can certify pilots without the FAA's onerous medical certification establishment. Eliminating CAMI would save millions of FAA funds, and collectively save U.S. pilots even more millions.

That doesn't mean that the FAA should ignore medical standards or not establish rules and regulations regarding pilot health, but the FAA should only monitor, not actively participate in the certification process. Instead, the FAA regulations should require commercial aviation companies to meet pilot medical certification standards as it now does for pilot proficiency and maintenance standards. Why not a similar system for pilot medical certification?

We need a like button on here. Great post Charles. Nothing the FAA does helps, we do all the heavy lifting(sometimes not very well).

Posted by: Roy Zesch | May 25, 2011 7:10 AM    Report this comment

I am one of the younger people LSA is trying to attract. I think they should establish a middle ground, maybe the revamped Rec Lic could fill the gap. LSA flying is what I enjoy (cheap(er) cruising around the sky, not really going anywhere), however at 6'2" 240lbs and a few gallons of fuel I would need a very tiny instructor and eventually passenger to stay below 1320lbs. I have been building hours with an instructor in a 30 year old 172. I have no medical issues but the extra expenses and time requirements of doing the medical is a factor in slowing down the process. I personally think the lSA market should be moved to 2000lbs, rec license w/o medical up to 6000lbs with only one passenger and other limits. Then have a full license for twins, complex, and heavy airplanes.

My plan is to build a Kitfox to the 1550lbs gross limit and fly with a full license, this gives me the weight to carry fuel and a passenger. But really is 200-300lbs in gross weight addition worth a medical.

I think the LSA market would continue to grow, the lower owner operational cost of the LSA planes are very attractive if you have the repairman’s certificate. In order to attract new pilots the entry cost has to be reduced the Medical can be a limit.

I run into people all the time that would love to learn to fly, have looked into it but have never heard of LSA. We need to market it better, it seems many flight schools choose not to market LSA because of profit,fear,or something.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | May 25, 2011 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Joseph, you bring up the point I've made all along: LSA's are not safer, not cheaper to rent, not attracting young pilots. The ONLY thing that is the draw in the USA is the relaxed MEDICAL. The older you get, the more "stuff" can happen to loose a medical. No one(should) be surprised that old pilots with means were switching to LSA because of "no medical".

LSA itself (for younger pilots in the USA) means that you have to almost choose between intentional over loads or fuel exhaustion. Such was critical enough in the C150; now it's more so in an LSA.

Of course, if young pilots are that adept at calculations, they quickly see that older planes have a huge cost/hr advantage over a new LSA.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 25, 2011 9:02 AM    Report this comment

I'm in the process of rebuilding a Luscombe 8A with the addition of a 90 horse engine. In the past upgrading to 90 hp also usually included a model change to an 8F and an increase in gross to 1400 lbs. Sounds like a good idea, right? Until you realize doing so puts it out of LS compliancy. So now my goal is to keep the gross at the current 1260 lbs so later in the event I can't pass a 3rd class I can fly it as a LS and be legal. Now I ask everyone. Is that putting safety first. Wouldn't it be a good idea to allow a higher gross weight. If I didn't have to worry about the possibility of not being able to pass a 3rd class I'd be converting to 1400 lbs no question. Seems silly. Typical of the FAA menatality.

Posted by: Gary Caron | May 25, 2011 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I'm strongly in favor of getting rid of the 3rd class medical. The bureaucracy and cost is way out of line with whatever might actually be gained by it. Consider what other safety initiatives might be possible if those resources were pointed somewhere else.

The LSA discussion is completely tangential. Don't let that tail wag the dog, which is that the 3rd class medical needs to be gotten rid of.

Posted by: JON CARLSON | May 25, 2011 10:23 AM    Report this comment

One thing that has not been mentioned here is that the 3rd class medical is an international requiremnt put forth by ICAO. In order for your pilots certificate to be a "Private Pilots License" it has to include an internationally accepted medical. If you drop the medical from your license, you are limited to flying within the US.

Not a huge issue for most of you but something to keep in mind.

Posted by: D MacD | May 25, 2011 11:08 AM    Report this comment

The 3rd class medical has about as much impact on flight safety as the radio station license did. It's time to drop the medical for noncommercial operations. Many of the aeromedical rules we live and die by haven't been updated in decades...didn't the old 20/100 uncorrected vision limit for Class 1 and 2 date from the era of open-cockpit planes? My understanding is they wanted to make sure that pilots could still see well enough to land if they lost their glasses in the slipstream. Only took the FAA about 60 years to dump that little antique. Bottom line, chronic medical issues (that a 3rd class physical may not even detect anyway) are a small contributor to the accident rate. The main issue I see is political. Watch someone have a heart attack in flight and hit a house, then watch the press have a conniption fit about the fact the pilot no longer needed a medical.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | May 25, 2011 12:01 PM    Report this comment

About the ICAO medical requirement, at least here in the US, I'm willing to bet that Canada and many caribbean countries will grant waivers to the medical requirement for non-commercial flights.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 25, 2011 12:22 PM    Report this comment

I fully support elimination of the 3rd class medical for aircraft less than 6,000 lbs. I, like other pilots I know, get yearly physical exams from my family doctor in addition to the AME. I monitor my blood pressure at home, exercise and keep up with changing FAR's. IMO the 3rd class medical does nothing to improve safety of flight.

Posted by: Ric Lee | May 25, 2011 1:05 PM    Report this comment

Drop the third class medical! Legacy GA airplanes are more durable and reliable than LSA hardware!
LSA's are dangerously moronic! Many have non-aircraft engines with inadequate piston skirts, causing engine seizure when an exhaust valve radius weld breaks. A Lycoming or Continental engine will continue running! LSA's sometimes have toy-style electric trim that has no mechanical backup whatsoever! GA aircraft have metal needle valves and seats, as well as "blue epoxy" floats, that don't cause fuel bowl problems. LSA's use auto-style carburetors that can have fuel bowl problems, such as killing the engine on takeoff! LSA's work pop-rivets loose! The Zodiac LSA even had wings that fluttered off!
We could keep GA alive, and utilize excellent, time-proven hardware, by eliminating the third -class medical. Experienced, well-founded, pilots could continue to fly, without the challenge of flying overpriced, unreliable, foreign junk!
The AME's Golden Goose might finally end, but if anyone wants to know their actual fitness, and future prognosis, then medical screenings are available, that trump any checkup that an AME can do!
I'd rather have the "driver's license medical" available for GA aircraft flying, rather than the "daredevil" flying of Lightsport junk!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 25, 2011 1:33 PM    Report this comment

OK to drop the 3rd class medical. But what with ICAO? What for pilots flying internationally? What if you fly a N-registered airplane in e.g. Europe?

Posted by: JAN MELKEBEEK | May 25, 2011 3:52 PM    Report this comment

All of you have struck a chord which I have been supporting, and have affirmed with Dr. Blue who is an AME. He too feels there is no need for a private pilot, using his/her aircraft for personal/recreational activities to have a 3rd class medical. Many have also commented on the possible demise of the LSA market if the medical goes away...if it does, then it would appear that was constructed as an interim step to have the medical reevaluated, and has surely served its purpose. I think Cessna and Piper can create a heavier two place box quickly. The 6000 pound limit seems a moderate balance, and as many have suggested, would aid in the recovery of light plane markets. Heck even Grumman tigers might make a comeback. I would emphasize currency in flying (numbers of hours flown) as also was mentioned becoming more important. So self certification (drivers license) is the way to go. Even with my brief 2000 hours, if I don't feel well...I don't fly! My life and those of my family top any risk. Bet most pilots feel the same way. Now the question is, how do we get that rule changed?

Posted by: roger bailey | May 25, 2011 4:01 PM    Report this comment

Roger Bailey asks, "How do we get the rule changed?".
As noted in the article, David Wartofsky has petitioned the FAA to change it. The FAA has made a mockery of the proposal, by making the proposal comment period 99 years long! Clearly, the FAA is violating the will of the America people! We must petition congressional and senatorial politicians to enforce the will of the people! To do that, we must let our will, and our viewpoints be known, and just writing about it, here on the internet, is a good start!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 25, 2011 4:51 PM    Report this comment

The comment box failed to copy the URL, so,re-read the original article, click on the bold, blue, hypertext, and that will get you to where you can start to change the onerous rule.

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 25, 2011 5:08 PM    Report this comment

Ron, where did you see the 99-year comment period? If true, that's Orwellian.


Posted by: Patrick Underwood | May 25, 2011 5:31 PM    Report this comment

It's not in this article. I read it a few months ago, when I was first aware of David's proposal, Wartofsky said the FAA gave him a long comment period, so that they won't have to deal with it, in their lifetimes, while they still collect their way too high paychecks, for scratching their disgusting private parts, of course!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 25, 2011 5:38 PM    Report this comment

While everyone compares the 3rd class medical for certificated airplanes with LSAs--let's not forget the record of pilot incapacitation (or lack thereof) with gliders. Most years, gliders have a similar safety record with aircraft requiring medical certificates--DESPITE the fact that the glider community draws pilots that couldn't pass a medical in the first place (not to mention the considerable strain and effort in rigging gliders).

A few years ago, there was only ONE case of pilot incapacitation with gliders--and it was a TOW PILOT, who HAD A SECOND CLASS MEDICAL.

Let it go for simple airplanes in non-commercial activities.

Posted by: jim hanson | May 25, 2011 5:58 PM    Report this comment

A few months ago, Aviation Consumer questioned the ability of LSAs to stand up to the rigors of flight training. If they don't hold up well, there will be no commercial operators--and without commercial operators, not only no flight training, but no used trainers--a classic case of "circling the drain."

On the OTHER hand, if the medical is waived, all of our "legacy" aircraft will be available as trainers. Given the increase in the value of LSA-eligible "legacy" aircraft like Champs and Cubs due to the ability to fly them without a medical certificate, it would seem that the value of our Cessna 140s, 150s, 172s, Warriors, etc. would increase as well. Why settle for an aircraft designed for an arbitrary and artificial weight limit, when you can have a proven, certificated aircraft with much more capability, IFR and night capability, and access to parts? The value of our existing aircraft will go nowhere but UP.

How many Euroboxes do you suppose would be sold if this artificial impediment was revoked? It's a classic case of government imposing its will on the marketplace, so buyers can't get what they want. In the automobile world, the Communist Trabant car was also a mandate of the government--it is now the laughingstock of the world.

Posted by: jim hanson | May 25, 2011 6:08 PM    Report this comment

Right on!, Jim Hansen!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 25, 2011 6:32 PM    Report this comment

Mark, we get it. You don't like LSA's. You think they're inferior in every way. I won't attempt to let facts get into the way of your opinion. Now, can you just stop with the complaining?

Posted by: Jay Manor | May 25, 2011 6:33 PM    Report this comment

Mark, we get it. You don't like LSA's. You think they're inferior in every way. I won't attempt to let facts get into the way of your opinion. Now, can you just stop with the complaining?

Posted by: Jay Manor | May 25, 2011 6:33 PM    Report this comment

Jay, I'm not complaining at all. I'm pointing out the obvious. If you reduce MTOW then you reduce STRUCTURE and/or FUEL. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that they don't represent any advancement yet do make loading very, very, very critical.

I cannot think of one superior technology unique to an LSA. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? Please?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 25, 2011 9:08 PM    Report this comment

Who wants a sucky plastic-coated wooden or composite prop? That's what they put on LSA's! I want my metal prop, so I can safely fly in the rain! I want my all-weather spark plugs, too, not automotive ones that will short out when in a wet atmosphere!

As far as LSA advancements, that would be using your iPhone for an MFD and PFD, after all, the iPhone has more computing power than NASA did in 1969, when they put a man on the moon!

Mattel toys could provide a "Garmin GTN" knock-off for LSA's, but not for legacy GA aircraft, of course, but that's just arbitrary, nonsensical, rule making, too!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 25, 2011 11:15 PM    Report this comment

I disagree with Paul regarding the impact of dropping the 3rd class medical on the Light Sport market. Having recently completed the 3 week Light Sport Repairman course (= A/P, IA privileges for LSA), I learned that of 16 persons in the class, only 2 were private pilots flying LSA fixed wing. The other 14 were in the weight shift / trike and other Light Sport areas (Glider, for example). Light Sport consists of a diverse group of pilots. When compared with the incredibly stimulative effect on GA in general, of dropping the 3rd class medical, the affect on Light Sport will be deminimus or undectable and will not in any way affect the industry. Remember, LS is governed by ASTM standards, and not the FAA, which is the real reason dozens of new fixed wing aircraft are availabe for purchase at low prices just 7 years after the LSA class was established.

Posted by: Marc Curvin, MD | May 26, 2011 5:29 AM    Report this comment

WOW. I am amazed at how quickly the discussion of medical certificates and FAA bureaucracy deteriorated into a very biased discussion of airframe design and motives.

The LSA standards produced by ASTM F37 committee have nothing to do with pilot medical certification. F37 is an international effort to produce a particular kind of aircraft intended for recreational rather than commercial use.

LSA are not dinky trainers as suggested by some posters. I have been flying one for two years now and find it delightful but difficult to fly. It is neither dinky nor a trainer. Just because it has two seats doesn't mean it is ideal for the training mission. Indeed it is not. The training mission was never considered by F37 and probably never will be.

I agree with the poster who said in effect the only people who benefit from the FAA aeromedical division are the people who work there and feed their families from taxpayer dollars. While this applies to all kinds of medical certificates and flying the application of this level of bureaucratic control over private flight operations is the most absurd. Five years of experience with a lot of older pilots flying under the new Sport Pilot rule with no federal medical certificates has produced a record that clearly indicates there is no safety value in those medical certificates. That record is enough to justify eliminating the third class medical certificate in at least some operational situations.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 5:34 AM    Report this comment

Regarding the Medical discussion, I agree the Third Class should be dropped within certain guidelines. This whole discussion reminds me of a similar blog on this website a couple months ago.

Regarding the tangent LSA discussion, Paul, perhaps I misunderstood, but I think it needs to be clear the F37 Committee rights the LSA Standards but did not set the weight limit of 1320 pounds (or any others). They came from the FAA.

Regarding the types of LSAs being built, the reality is the LSA market (like most other markets) is driven by sales. Even though the original concept of LSA was to support a grassroot rebirth of basic flying, the reality is the customers for a 'basic' LSA did not appear. The people buying LSAs are the step-downs and in many cases they want all the 'bells and whistles' that were in there 'real' airplane. More than one LSA OEM has told me it was a real challenge for them to sell a 'basic' (less expensive) LSA.

Posted by: Richard Norris | May 26, 2011 5:40 AM    Report this comment

I think elimination of the third class medical is bound to happen at some point. The details of this change is a political rather than a technical decision. It has more to do with the FAA appropriation and budget issue than with safety.

The LSA market is due for a shake-out no matter what happens with the medical question. This is a wonderful new niche in the aviation market place, but it just can't support a hundred different manufacturer/model choices with sufficient sales to be profitable for all.

I am confident the LSA concept will survive any choice made on the medical question. LSA are delightful aircraft that have a lot to make them viable products. They are fun to fly and reasonably inexpensive to manufacture. It may be true that elimination of the 3rd class medical requirement will have a noticeable impact on sales, but that won't change the basic attraction of recreational flyers to these planes. They were designed for that purpose and provide a maximum amount of pleasure and utility for a minimum cost in both purchase price and fuel consumption.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 5:44 AM    Report this comment

Here is why every red blooded American pilot should care about and want the elimination of the third class medical. The pilot population is declining and clout is being lost. The economics of general aviation is being destroyed for many reasons other than the third class medical but, a thriving pilot population will help solve some of the issues. Even if you are the picture of health and will never have trouble getting a medical or you can afford an LSA. What good is all of this going to be when there are no (practical) airports, no avgas and even more stifling regulation? We need as many active pilots as possible! We all need each other and we need to fight for each other whether it directly affects you or not. I think the LSA market will take a hit. I also think we will see LSA manufacturers take advantage of relaxed rules. The gains will far outweigh the losses.

Posted by: Rod Pollard | May 26, 2011 6:50 AM    Report this comment

Most of the comments have it right. The arbitrary weight limit backfired on the FAA trying to stimulate the a/c industry and did nothing for the cash strapped newcomer. I'm 85 and, after 69 years flying, and nearly 30,000 hours I will soon be forced to sell my Debonair and spend more money for an LSA qualified airplane, just to enjoy what I have done for most of my adult life. Lots of people will just fly without any medical, but where I live, doing so is a third class FELONY, while the fourth offense DUI is still a misdemeanor. Thanks bureaucrats.

Posted by: JACK WILLIAMS | May 26, 2011 7:30 AM    Report this comment

Here's how ridiculous the 3rd class medical is: Last year a fellow pilot I know had heart bypass surgery. The FAA said he was good to fly the day before the bypass, as he had no symptoms whatever. No shortness of breath, no history, no heart attack, nothing. Guy was, and still is the picture of robust good health. He found out about the disorder on a voluntary specialized check-up. After the recovery, the FAA says NO FLYING, Yet certainly he's a MUCH lower risk now than before. In order to retain a medical now takes thousands of dollars to be tested every year. This paints a bullseye on the pilot to find any other reason to deny the medical.

Posted by: Kell Steffen | May 26, 2011 7:33 AM    Report this comment

Pauld said:"F37 is an international effort to produce a particular kind of aircraft intended for recreational rather than commercial use."

Well, to point out the obvious again, flight schools ARE a commercial use. That's why minimizing the STRUCTURE on a $125K commercial trainer presents a maintenance problem for those commercial operators with low-time pilots.

I won't sell my planes even if I did loose my medical. I have enough pilot friends who are willing to ride right-seat for free.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 26, 2011 7:34 AM    Report this comment

How about dropping the 3rd class medical requirement for a Recreational license and see what happens? An experienced private pilot exercising Recreational privileges could still fly some pretty nice aircraft (like a Cherokee 180, RV-7, or fixed-gear Lancair) day VMC by carrying the pilot's logbook. Small price. Then we could see what happens to LSA sales.

Posted by: MICHAEL MUETZEL | May 26, 2011 7:35 AM    Report this comment

Although the LSA idea was conceived to bring new people into aviation at lower costs..... I feel that you are missing the fact that LSA's for the most part are not cheap. Some are but the price point does not draw new pilots to aviation. It aslo appears that the FAA is doing whatever it can to destroy General Aviation.

Posted by: JOHN ROHLFING | May 26, 2011 7:56 AM    Report this comment

Mark Fraser,
What $125K trainer do you refer to?
Perhaps you missed the point: LSA are NOT TRAINERS.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 8:24 AM    Report this comment

Paul: It may never have been the 'intent' to use LSA as a trainer, but the fact is many of them are being used for training. Just look at the Cessna SkyCatcher! The primary market for this LSA are the Cessna Flight Schools! I've also seen several articles in various aviation magazines talking about FOBs and Flight Schools using LSAs as primary flight trainers - primarily because of the lower operating costs.

Posted by: Richard Norris | May 26, 2011 8:30 AM    Report this comment

USN Retired--EXCELLENT way to get solve the problem--eliminate 3rd class medicals for recreation pilots.

As you mention, those pilots get to fly "legacy" aircraft.

Those aircraft increase in value due to increased demand.

FBOs will not have to use LSA aircraft for training--a mission they were not designed for.

Pilots will have more substantial aircraft.

The FAA gets to save face by not doing a full repeal of the medical, or an increase in the LSA weight.

It will be a good test for possible later changes to the private pilot requirement for a medical.

The balloon/glider experience has proven that pilot incapacitation hasn't been a major problem in those segments--the LSA experience seems to confirm that it isn't a big problem there, either. Extending the removal of the medical for the Recreational Pilot (and if that works out, the Private Pilot) Certificate is only a logical step.

Everybody "wins"--at minimal cost and disruption.

Posted by: jim hanson | May 26, 2011 9:18 AM    Report this comment

The 3rd Class Medical WAS a good idea, when it was first instituted. It is always a good idea to err on the side of safety. History has shown that it has become a hindrance and not a help. The 3rd Class Medical has now become a financial problem, NOT one of safety. Who is going to make a substantial investment in aviation if a doctor can take it all away next year? Then there is the "run up" to LSA. The FAA was clearly negligent when if failed to grandfather in the current fleet of training aircraft into the LSA rules. Without airplanes to train in or rent, FBO's will have a difficult (if not more expensive) time integrating the LSA License as one of the steps on the training ladder...one that could impact safety. Then there is the cost of regulation. The FAA could make much better use of it's administration dollars by concentrating on commercial operations.

If safety is the problem, technology, not regulation will solve it. We now have parachutes in airplanes, and autopilot technology it so sophisticated that programing an "Emergency Auto-Land" button could added, if that's what it takes to make people more comfortable with eliminating the 3rd Class Medical. For now, the 3rd Class Medical is a gate keeper that keeps aviation from prospering.

Posted by: Douglas Fredlund | May 26, 2011 9:19 AM    Report this comment

If LSA was to get people INTO aviation, that means TRAINING. Having LSA's on the ramp when new people come was (supposed to) help keep them interested. Also since most new pilots cant afford an airplane, that means rental. Rentals are commercial.

The $125K is ballpark for those kinds of LSA's that new pilots will encounter when they go to train or rent. That's purchase price & tax (not including 1 year insurance).

Unless you expect all new pilots to buy or build, the LSA is relegated to a rental-fleet aircraft. That's commercial.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 26, 2011 9:26 AM    Report this comment

One day we're lamenting the loss of certificated pilots and the next the slow makeup of the loss by new pilots being trained. We all agree that the GA market must not get smaller for any number of reasons. Eliminating the third class medical addresses both of those concerns with minimum impact on the accident rate. If I were in the business of building LSA airplanes I'd be nervous too, but as many have pointed out in this thread the overwhelming marjority of new LSA airplanes are being sold to flight schools not individuals. They're just too expensive. Sorry LSA manufacturers but it's obvious you aren't going to save GA, so lets do something that will have a real impact, eliminate the third class medical and make all those old 150's, Cherokees and 172's viable airplanes again.

Posted by: Barton Robinett | May 26, 2011 9:46 AM    Report this comment

I know of pilots who avoid certain tests -- prostate biopsies, for example -- because a positive result could ground them. In effect, FAA medical requirements are endangering them.

Posted by: Art Friedman | May 26, 2011 10:08 AM    Report this comment


LSA are different things to different people. While they might be appropriate for flight training that is decidedly NOT what the standard was designed for. A given manufacturer may decide to build a trainer that meets the LSA standard, but I am not aware of any who have done so. Your comment that suggest LSA are not built with the sturdy landing gear and general structure meant to withstand student pilot abuse is right on. Using high end LSA for trainers is equivalent to teaching people to drive on BMWs.

I wish there were more LSA available for rental. They are very rare in my part of the country (Pacific NW). Since over two thousand S-LSA have been sold in the USA and there seem to be perhaps a dozen or two in rental service I question the conclusion that most are sold for that purpose.

I keep hearing that LSA are supposed to make aviation affordable to the average person. This isn't just wrong it is ridiculous. Flying is, and always has been, an expensive activity that only people who have saved up lots of money can afford. That is not the average American.

I don't think eliminating the 3rd class medical will help aviation all that much. It is more a matter of getting the regulatory environment to match reality. Since the 3rd class medical does nothing to help safety it should go away just to save the large costs it represents.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 10:40 AM    Report this comment

If you ever have problems affecting your medical you will understand those of us who have and would like to see the third class medical go away. I have had many medical problems, am a very fit 64-year-old, and have to BATTLE the FAA every year or event for my medical waiver. Every event I have had, I come out of the doctor's office with his blessing to resume normal activities. But at a minimum I have to wait 3 months to APPLY for my medical clearance and then battle for another 2 months with great help from a lady in the FAA in Washington D.C. It is very frustrating! There are enough consequences (liability issues, hurting or killing the passenger with me, etc) to keep me from flying when I shouldn't. This seems to me to be a government empire we could do without.

Posted by: Keith Brandt | May 26, 2011 10:42 AM    Report this comment

As a physician, I support eliminating the 3rd class medical. It is a far higher standard to fly the biennial flight review than to take the physical, and there is a lot of wasted effort on the physical (and wasted money by the bureaucracy).

However, I think any relaxation of the rules should also eliminate any compensation. You can't be reimbursed for expenses, you can't share expenses, your company can't pay for the plane, you can't collect milage, you can't fly to business meetings. Money isn't actually the root of ALL evil but it accounts for a large share of bad judgement.

Posted by: D. M. Perry | May 26, 2011 11:12 AM    Report this comment

" A given manufacturer may decide to build a trainer that meets the LSA standard, but I am not aware of any who have done so."

I find this comment puzzling. This is not what manufacturers are telling us. Tecnam, Eastman, Flight Designs, Remos and others are all telling us they are actively pursuing flight training as part of their market, but not the only part.

From day one, the light sport idea was supposed to make smaller, lighter airplanes more affordable for all comers and part of that was the notion that it would offer less expensive entry training.

At Jim mentioned above, we did a reasonably thorough canvass of flight schools using LSA and/or conventional designs to see how they compare in cost and preference.

Here's a summary quote from that article: "A completely unexpected fact that surfaced during this study was how many pilot starts walked in the door specifically looking for Sport Pilot licenses. One school reported a shocking nine out of 10 pilots fit this category. We contacted several schools and saw a range from a third of new students specifically seeking Light Sport to 80 or 90 percent of all new applicants. These are just from schools offering both LSA and traditional trainers."

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 26, 2011 11:18 AM    Report this comment

As for durability and maintenance costs, are survey found a mixed bag. Compared to, say a Cessa 150, an LSA might break more. But it's often cheaper and quicker to fix. One school running both told us the costs were about a wash.

The real acid test will be when those LSAs are 10 or 20 years old. I don't think they'll hold up as well as 150s have. Then again, the schools may end up cycling them, just like they used to do with Cessnas. (And some still do.)

So, for LSAs as trainers and for bringing people into flying, it's a work a progress and too soon to judge. I see green shoots and a lot of potential. But that's no guarantee the experiment will work.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 26, 2011 11:24 AM    Report this comment

In reply to Paul Mulwitz--Two LSAs that I've flown that in my opinion ARE built sturdy enough for training are the Jabiru and the erstwhile Czech-built Pipersport. Both are scaled down from heavier aircraft, and feature heavier landing gear. There are still very expensive for an FBO to be viable as a trainer.

I DO think that eliminating the medical will help aviation--as several have pointed out, most LSA pilots are people "downsizing" to get rid of the hassle of the medical certificate--not the desire to fly very light airplanes. Anything that retains pilots is a good thing!

Posted by: jim hanson | May 26, 2011 11:40 AM    Report this comment

I had bypass surgery in 2001. I have had to take a stress test every year since. That's not the problem.
Then I get certain info from my G.P. and then this all goes to my AME and is sent to the FAA Med. It's crazy and usually takes 1-2 months. I have no interest in LSA craft. I have almost all my time in Bonanzas and now a Debonair. ooops! those are "complex" aircraft. The gear goes up and down and you can change prop pitch. I am very used to doing this. The plane cruises at about 150 and burns about 12 gal an hour. I have about $80,000 in it versus a LSA at $125,000. I have a AME that lives close by that just retired after 30+ years and I said "they don't really want you to fly. He said I was absolutely RIGHT. Get rid of the third class.
At 73 years old I think I have some common sense!

Posted by: RON SMITH | May 26, 2011 11:56 AM    Report this comment

People are hoping "used" LSA's will bring prices down, but that hasn't happened yet. Old-timers hold on to them, in hope of flying a weekend, or two.
I'd like to be able to continue to fly my old Cherokee, something I have great faith in. I'm always being asked to promote Aviation, to recruit new pilots, etc. I give my share of airplane rides, that people have loved, but how do I help them slay the giant obstacles? How do I help them against the environmentalist's "evil oil" mentality, how do I stop the greedy oil speculators, who jack up the price at pump? How do I defeat the politicians, with their ethanol subsidies, and their blocking domestic drilling and their blocking the building of refineries? How do I defeat the control freaks, who write regulations to insure only the big airlines can profit from Aviation?
Do I tell my aviation prospects, THEY can afford a new LSA, when I know I cannot? Do I tell them, they can afford gasoline, when I cannot?
I can go on and on, about the outrageous expenses of aircraft ownership, but I want to stop here, not empowering the naysayers!
I just think the LSA market, is a "red herring", pulling cash from a very small minority of financially endowed elders, finding a way to hold on to what's important in life, flying!
Look around at your local airports, what do you see? Very few LSA's are actually being used, you are more likely to see legacy GA airplanes, doing the flying! Many of the GA planes can run on autogas, too.

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 26, 2011 12:14 PM    Report this comment

On LSA engines, my experience is, the Jabirus sputter, the Rotax's shake, and the Vee-Dubs overheat!
Not to mention the Jab 2200 that seized on a buddy's Skyranger. Or the 3300 that suddenly died on the takeoff roll. Gimme a Lycoming or Continental any day, especially when you want $125K, and I can buy legacy aircraft for $20K (I would love to buy an Aztec currently on sale for $44K). Gasoline prices, and worrisome medicals, are what stops me in my tracks, when it comes to aviation!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 26, 2011 12:33 PM    Report this comment


While the Jabirus might be strong enough to work well as primary trainers, the one I tried on for size didn't have adjustable seats. The Piper Sport seems to me to be a copy of the Zodiac XL that CZAW used to sell rather than a scaled down larger plane. Indeed many of the parts are interchangeable. The Zodiac XL was always supposed to hit the maximum limits of LSA.

Paul B. -- I am not surprised the sales people at LSA manufacturers are talking about using their products as trainers. Like most salesmen they will say whatever they think will generate sales. The designers of those same companies are a different story. The planes are designed to meet the ASTM standard they must comply with. That standard decidedly does not consider training issues.

S-LSA may be the best available new planes for training use. It is easy to imagine students who would rather pay $120 per hour for a shiny new plane than the same price for a 30 year old one. I think the S-LSA are OK for training. It will take a primary student more hours to reach the same level of skill, but that may not be a big problem.

The only new plane from Tecnam or the other mentioned manufacturers that I think was designed as a trainer is the new twin Rotax (P2009?). It was clearly meant for multi-engine training. Of course, it is not an LSA.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 12:40 PM    Report this comment

Any manufacturer has to assume that all new pilots will be learning to fly LSA's in an LSA. That's why it's absurd to suggest that designers "overlooked" that basic assumption.

Unfortunately the artificial EU restriction that we adopted on MTOW means that weight (not robustness) is key. Cheesier structure with less skilled pilots does make for an interesting combination...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 26, 2011 1:12 PM    Report this comment

Many airplanes were not built as trainers but are. There's nothing specific about a trainer that makes it a trainer other than price; the market has always been price sensitive.

Take the PA-28 series bottom end. It wasn't designed as a trainer, but Piper made a trainer version of it. The 172 wasn't designed as a trainer, but Cessna marketed flightschool versions that had a single radio and cheaper interiors. They are still selling 172s to the trainer market.

If the LSA salesmen are BSing us, they must be pretty good, because the schools buying them are training pilots in them. So I guess they're trainers.

The last purpose-made trainers are really the Diamond DA20 and Liberty, plus that Australian model, the Eagle I think. Even then, both of them find a market in the owner flown segment.

Bottom line: LSAs are trainers and were meant to be that. They are also owner flown sport airplanes and were meant to be that. Given their handling, they aren't ideal trainers, but that's a function of economics, not design intent.

If LSA is successful--and no one know if it will be--at some point, more pilots will train in them than conventional airplanes. Might not happen. Hasn't yet. But we shall see.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 26, 2011 1:19 PM    Report this comment

The Jabiru is a scaled down 2+2 seater--thus the huge baggage compartment. It originally had a gross weight of 1540 pounds.

The Pipersport was the old Czech-built Sportcruiser Experimental aircraft--reduced in weight to meet LSA minimums. Both retained the landing gear of their predecessors. Perhaps because of this extra structure, both have avoided the "toy airplane" feeling of many LSAs.

I own a Kolb and a Kitfox LSA, and have flown a number of other LSAs.

I'm 6'4" and 270 pounds of "rippling muscle"--yet I have more than enough room in either aircraft.

Posted by: jim hanson | May 26, 2011 1:26 PM    Report this comment

You have started another great conversation, Paul!

I am on the second year of heart-related waivers for my 3rd class medical. Even though the ablation my cardiologist did in 2009 completely eliminated all symptoms of atrial flutter, I still needed a 24 hour monitor this year to renew and will need a stress-echo test next year.

The fact that I can ride a bicycle 100 miles in one day has no impact on the process, because it appears that the regulations determine what evidence the FAA flight surgeon can and can't use when determining exceptions to the standard. Am I correct in that conclusion?

Posted by: Jim Spee | May 26, 2011 1:30 PM    Report this comment

A lot of legacy aircraft potentially are price-depressed because so many baby boomers fear failing their medical. Fewer buyers, more sellers. For this reason, now is an excellent time to buy an airplane. If you are healthy, or at least not worried about failing the medical, legacy aircraft can be had at low prices. LSA should not worry about this; the tradeoff in price is less efficient engines (i.e. gas guzzlers) and slower speeds.

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | May 26, 2011 1:55 PM    Report this comment

Paul B.

OK, I yield on the trainer question. If people want to train in LSA then they are trainers - no mater what considerations were made in their design.

LSA have naturally light control forces that are difficult for experienced part 23 pilots to adjust to. This might be less of a problem for new pilots who don't have to unlearn their previous experience. The "Systems" in LSA are indeed simple and appropriate for student use. That only means pilots transitioning from S-LSA to part 23 planes will need to learn about things like carb. heat, mixture control, and other such devices. I'm not sure how many new pilots will find it desirable to change to the older and more expensive to operate part 23 planes. Perhaps it is those who have families they want to haul around or the ones seeking a professional pilot career.

I have found the LSA I flew for a couple of years (Tecnam Echo Super) to be very nice when the weather was very nice and very difficult when the weather was not really wonderful. It really doesn't handle crosswinds very well and bounces a lot in turbulence that heavier planes don't really notice. This is not a problem for recreational flying which can be postponed but for student flights that must be scheduled a week in advance these qualities could be a significant problem.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 2:27 PM    Report this comment

One of my personal issues with the current regulatory situation relates to advanced pilot training. It is OK now for pilots like me (Private Pilot certificate from many years ago, complex and high performance transitions completed) to fly around in LSA, but we are prevented from training for any advanced skills. I would personally like to get an instrument rating, but I need a 3rd class medical for that. The same restriction applies to multi-engine ratings. My experience and pilot skills are ready for those advancements, but the regulations stand in the way at this time. Eliminating the 3rd class medical would automatically open up those areas.

Put another way, the current situation that allows only Sport Pilot privileges without a medical makes higher rated pilots exercising that privilege exist in a training dead end.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 2:36 PM    Report this comment

What's F37?

Posted by: THOMAS M CONNOR | May 26, 2011 2:40 PM    Report this comment


F37 is the "Name" of the ASTM committee that produces standards and related documents for factory built Light Sport Aircraft. It is composed of leaders from assorted parts of aviation including manufacturers, end users, and other interested parties.

Membership in F37 is open to anyone who wants to join, but status as a "Voting" member is subject to approval from the committee leaders.

F37 and indeed all of ASTM (a large international standards organization) is based on the concept of "Consensus Standards". That means committee members must agree on all the details of the standards. This is nearly the opposite of the kind of standards "Imposed" on the community by the FAA and other national aviation regulators.

The standards that come from this process seem to make more sense than ones like FAR Part 23 which is primarily a product of government bureaucrats.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 3:03 PM    Report this comment

Paul M, you are correct about the F37 Committee and factory built LSAs; however, they also writed standards related to kit (E) LSAs, gyroplanes, trikes, parachutes, Lighter-Than-Air, Gliders, engines, and are working on standards related to electric powered aircraft. In short, any 'standard' related to the Light Sport field falls under their umbrella

Posted by: Richard Norris | May 26, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

There was a line in the book 'the Right Stuff' that goes 'there was no good that ever came of seeing the flight surgeon. The best a pilot could do is come out the same way he went in.' IIRC that was a period of winnowing the applicants down to the Mercury 7, so any defect was a reason to reject, but many feel the same about the AME. And it does seem a bit absurd that a 10 minute visit tells much about incapacitating defects.

Posted by: THOMAS M CONNOR | May 26, 2011 3:39 PM    Report this comment

I am leaning towards the idea of getting rid of all medicals for all certificate levels. Interesting to note, people are only talking 3rd class medicals here? The talk of the time seems to be that a 3rd class doesnt keep anyone safer. So wouldnt logic follow that the 2nd or 1st class medicals dont make their respective pilots any safer? I mean, at least most of those pilots have a co-pilot so if they stroke out, there is another pilot ready to avert impending disaster. I would say whats good for the goose is good for the gander. The FAA would save alot of money, and there would be absolutely no increased risk to the flying public, or the millions of people underneath them. This is a no brainer! Id also like to point out that an annual inspection is alot like a medical but for an airplane, we should do away with those as well. Annual inspections are costly, create down time, and dont really improve safety. Lets face it, just like the pilot who knows he disqualifies medically, the airplane with a crack in the sparbox will still fly regardless. just my .02

Posted by: rob haschat | May 26, 2011 3:51 PM    Report this comment

Robert, there's probably a difference between flying for hire and for fun. But like the 3rd class that seems to measure your ability to write a check more than pilot a plane, a plane that cannot fly from an annual that flew to it does strike some as equally absurd. But that's another issue.

Posted by: THOMAS M CONNOR | May 26, 2011 4:07 PM    Report this comment

I dont consider for hire any different than for fun. Flying is flying. Just because its done for fun, that doesnt make it any different. All I am sayin here Tom, is that if a group of people who will soon no longer qualify to pass a medical because of any small number of disqualifying conditions enumerated under part 67 want to get rid of the impedence to their flying for fun, shouldnt we say the same thing for professional pilots who will soon disqualify for the same reasons have that same ability to get rid of the impedence to their paycheck??? Fair is fair no?

Posted by: rob haschat | May 26, 2011 4:45 PM    Report this comment

Paul-Thanks for keeping this thread going. A lot of pilots are (or should be)interested in eliminating the third class medical.The NPRM was introduced in 2009. We need to do everything we can to move it to a favorable conclusion. Now is an excellent time to write to your congressman.

Posted by: Ron Robinson | May 26, 2011 4:51 PM    Report this comment

I am not trying to be argumentative here, but dont you see the hipocracy in saying its ok for a pilot to fly around in his own airlane, then hop in the back of Southwest flight 496 while the pilot in front who may have the very same medical disqualification has to be held to a higher standard??? Both are equally capable of killing people in the air and the ground. And the arguments on this blog say that the 3rd class medicals dont do anything. So if 3rd class medicals dont improve safety, but 2nd and 1st class medicals do, would it not be logical then to get rid of the 3rd class medicals altogether and require at least a 2nd class medical? That then should keep pilots safe by some of the arguments I am reading....in theory. Or...it could be that none of the classes of medicals really make it any safer for any pilot to fly, and then we can just get rid of the whole system. I dunno, what is the right answer here....people want their cake and eat it to (they want to fly without a medical, but when they are being flown by someone else, that scmuck needs a medical), keep the medical system in place as we have a system in place for pilots who may loose their medical to keep flying under a different category, or get rid of the medical system altogether.

Posted by: rob haschat | May 26, 2011 5:01 PM    Report this comment

1st class medical for pilots who fly passengers for hire
2nd class medical for pilots who fly for hire non passenger related or for buisness related with employees
3rd class medical should be eliminated for pilots who fly for pleasure or travel

Posted by: JOHN ZAZULKA | May 26, 2011 5:03 PM    Report this comment

Bob, it would be good to know the history behind the medical requirement, including commercial driver licenses. Here in Montana the driver license was originally 'encouraged' and cost 25 cents to get when paying vehicle taxes like in a cracker jack box. Today licensing has become an industry - and useful for ID but still easy to get unless gramps self identifies as having problem seeing the person taking his check.

Then there is the mexican/Canadian equivalent to the USA CDL medical. I've worked with Mexicans who said getting Mexican medicals was easy - you didn't even have to show up, and they can drive double trailer rigs in the USA (Or could - I'm out of date). It tells me there is a 'certification industry' out there that benefits more than the safety of the public.

The folks with the info that matters is the insurance industry. Actuarial data would tell us a lot about the risk that insurers are willing to take with their insured, and like the ASTM specs it may be time for the feds to step aside and let those who suffer the risk set the standard.

Posted by: THOMAS M CONNOR | May 26, 2011 5:23 PM    Report this comment

Robert Hasiak, you'll be losing your aviation medical sooner than you think. Then you'll be driving vehicles measured in tons, in close proximity, measured in inches, to vehicles commonly weighing 80,000 lbs! Incapacitation will be extremely dangerous for you then. It won't be like when you were miles away from other vehicles, and in remote areas where it will take time, to even find you, if your airplane had gone down. Did you not read, where incapacitation is not a big factor in aviation casualties? People flying their own private small planes are not much of a danger to others, even if they intend to be, like Stack, the guy who flew into the Texas IRS building. Remember after 911, the young flight student on oxycotin, who flew into a skyscraper, only harming himself? There's even been people that flew lightplanes into the White House, and they only harmed themselves.

The second class and first class medicals are reassurrances to public passengers that their pilot is qualified to give them safe passage.

Many medical emergency helicopters are piloted by old-timers with second class medicals. Safe passage can't be guaranteed, but passenger assurance can be reinforced.

Separating out private, recreational pilots for onerous regulation, is not fair, especially when similar sport pilots are already exempted from onerous regulation based on arbitrary weight.

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 26, 2011 6:39 PM    Report this comment

I find the lighter weight aircraft (1320 lbs and lighter) to be landing hazards, as I have witnessed their uncontrollability with a "dust devil" or severe gusts on the runway.
In no case was there serious injury, but I did have to upright a Kitfox one time, to make it easier for the two people to unbuckle and get out. (People have unbuckled upside down, but they sometimes break their necks, that way, falling on the heads!
The 6000 lb. weight seems reasonable, many light planes are under 3000 lbs, and traditionally, heavy airplanes are 12,500 lbs. and above.

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 26, 2011 6:50 PM    Report this comment


I share your basic opinion that all medicals are equal, but after fighting this particular battle for years I am aware of a few points that may not immediately come to mind.

3rd class medicals are for Private Pilots. Anyone who decides to get into a plane with one of these guys in command is taking a big chance, but it is not so much about medical issues. Some private pilots are great and others are awful. The difference is usually about the pilot's attitude and currency. Let's face it - nearly all accidents are caused by pilot error.

Since the medical issue is such a small part of the risk in this case eliminating it has little safety impact.

It is a bit different when a paying customer climbs aboard a plane commanded by a professional pilot-for-hire. In this case it is reasonable (at least from the government's point of view) for the passenger to expect a reasonable level of professionalism and also a low risk of accident. It will take a lot more persuasion to get the FAA to drop the possibly worthless medical for these pilots than for ones who are not flying for a living.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 6:59 PM    Report this comment

One thing to keep in mind when considering the FAA medical empire is the fact that the FAA bureaucrats get involved in many issues that have little to do with a pilot's medical condition. The big problem here is use of prescription drugs.

DOT studies have shown time and again there is no correlation between prescription drug use and transportation safety problems. That is not good enough for the FAA. It has its own prejudices regarding drug use and frequently grounds pilots for using medicine that doesn't prevent them from driving cars. Indeed no medicine use, when prescribed by a doctor, prevents anyone from driving a car. I submit driving a car is inherently more dangerous and demanding on the driver than flying a plane.

For those flying with state driver's licenses as medical qualification the issue of prescription drug use is decided by the pilot rather than the FAA medical bureaucrats. That is a huge difference.

In all cases the pilot must self-certify his condition to be satisfactory for a safe flight. The big question is whether this is sufficient or whether a big government bureaucracy needs to be added on top of this to keep the world safe from pilot's judgment errors.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 26, 2011 7:07 PM    Report this comment

Right on, Paul! You got it right!

Some of those private pilots, not even their wives will fly with them!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 26, 2011 7:09 PM    Report this comment

At the risk of starting a debate on Obamacare, the primary reason the the 3rd class medical should be eliminated is that it will be virtually impossible for a pilot to find a physician to perform an examination. Obamacare will cause thousands of physicians to leave the medical practice.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | May 26, 2011 7:14 PM    Report this comment

I support getting rid of third class medicals AND removing the requirement (punishable by fines and jail) to tell the FAA about "every" visit to "any" doctor since the last medical. A broken bone that healed, surgery not related to cardiovascular health, Gyn issues (I have been required to produce records about a minor procedure...WHY is that the FAA's business?), even visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist. Going to talk therapy voluntarily to deal with a family or work-related issue can defuse and prevent a more severe issue. I guess my libertarian side is showing. A lot of this is simply not relevant to being physically and emotionally ready to fly and is between me and my care providers.

Posted by: Cathy Babis | May 27, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

I fully support eliminating the 3rd class medical for private pilots and those not flying for hire. The double-standard is what bothers me, particularly as a cancer survivor: One person flies LSA and has a certain medical condition, but thats OK since he's flying LSA. Another person has the identical condition but was rejected in the course of his Class 3 , so he can't fly certificated aircraft OR EVEN LSA ever again. I will require a special issuance medical which is another nightmare! If you want an eye opener, just look at the OTC meds that are prohibited.Mr Hasiak does not know the value of an annual but I've found many dangerous cconditions anda an IA.On the LSA issue, they are not better safer, or cheaper. Avemco says that the average LSA accident costs $60K to repair. The reason is that parts are more scarce than C-150 parts, so the irony here is that we need to bend more LSA's to increase the parts stock. Read the recent article in PLANE AND PILOT.If LSA were to include the C-150's, Colts, and maybe Grumman AA1's, there would be safer alternatives to the old taildraggers that are harder to fly and have more accidents. The light weight and controls of the LSA'a puts them more at risk, which is why Certificated GA pilots flying V-35's and C-182's have a HIGHER accident rate in LSA's then someone initially trained in an LSA. For half the cost of an LSA costing $120K, you can get a really nice 182, Mooney, Warrior etc.

Posted by: TOM CIURA | May 27, 2011 11:29 AM    Report this comment

We have NEAR UNANIMOUS desire to eliminate the medical certificate for Private Pilots--but that may be just among the trouble-makers that post at AVWEB. (sarcasm) I would be willing to bet, though, that the vast majority of pilots will agree.

The fact that the FAA is so unresponsive is indicative of how out-of-touch they have become. Government only governs with the consent of the governed--it's time for action. We shouldn't accept the plodding bureaucracy the FAA has become. Shame on us for not being assertive.

What better place to start than with the elimination of this piece of administrative law that has long outlived its usefullness? If we can't get THIS thing changed, there is little "hope" for "change" in the REST of the Federal Bureaucracy!

Posted by: jim hanson | May 27, 2011 3:08 PM    Report this comment

Jim Hanson, you are probably right that every private pilot wants the rule changed, but I was just reading this morning that the AOPA people think that there will be some opposition to the change! The AOPA has feared bringing this issue up, other than enrolling people in their "medical help" service.

In the months ahead, they do plan to mention eliminating the third class medical, and I hope everyone will respond in the affirmative, and, I think it might open a floodgate, to save GA, the way we all know and love it!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 27, 2011 8:33 PM    Report this comment

Ron,love your optimism. As a starving CFII I have to be brutally honest with students, because there are four hoops a budding Steve Canyon must wallow thru to get a PPL: The medical, the 'knowledge test', actually learning to fly something, and proving it to an examiner. Only one of the four are on the person's radar screen when they pump me for info, but of the four the medical is often the easiest for the youngsters: Pay your money and be done with it. The knowledge test has little to do with flying, and recently the feds have gone out of their way to make it impossible to pass by violating their own CFI rules of the road: Tell the teacher what to teach and we'll evaluate how you did. Now it has deteriorated into a game of stump the dummy and I've got a secret. It's criminal. The rules for the medical are no less indifferent to reality, modern lifespans and medicine.

Posted by: THOMAS M CONNOR | May 27, 2011 10:48 PM    Report this comment

Remember how SSI was set at 65 believing few would live to enjoy it and sulfa drugs were state of the art? That's the environment our current medical system was designed to work in. Bureaucracies always grow to uselessness while finding gold plated solutions to simple problems and for the most part our favorite bureaucracy has run it's course. WAAS is a great example of a strange and wonderful solution to a problem that should have been easily solved: Give us the same receivers the military has with millimeter accuracy, no waiting. But no, we got WAAS billion$ and years later. Maybe a small asteroid will find a certain place in OKC while it also wipes memories and disk drives clean so we can all start all over.

End rant. Sorry guys!

Posted by: THOMAS M CONNOR | May 27, 2011 10:49 PM    Report this comment

>>>> The knowledge test has little to do with flying,

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | May 27, 2011 11:15 PM    Report this comment

Good to hear the rant, Tom, and you know, over the years I've been an aviator, I wish we would have had a means to rant, and to influence thinkers to stop the control freaks in government from ruining our daily lives, and our beloved aviation. Finally, with today's internet, we can at last, hear intelligent people speak.

Glad to hear from you!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 27, 2011 11:29 PM    Report this comment

What? Paul! You don't have superman eyes? I didn't know I had them either, until I started looking through women's clothes!

Posted by: Ron Brown | May 27, 2011 11:32 PM    Report this comment

Regarding the 3rd class medical, I let mine expire and am flying LSA at this time. About the time I turned 50...aeromedical started sending nastygrams that required more tests only because I was on BP medication. This condition has been under control and reported since about age 35. AME did not understand why aeromedical was questioning his assessment. Was age 50 just a red flag in the FAA's computer system?
On to the weight issue...I learned to fly in the late 1970's in a C-150. Comparing LSA to the typical legacy models, the one thing that I see is that LSA's in many cases lack a robust airframe due to light construction. Piper PA-22-108 is an example of meeting the LSA requirements except for weight but it did have a strong airframe. There is also the issue of pilot size. I am 6'2" (used to be 6'4" but that is another story) and 240 lbs. I do not fit in a Remos...my knees are in my face. My 240 lb frame does a lot to limit the aircraft that I can fly and take a passenger with me...so I limit fuel. This is not different from the C-150 above but boy are there a lot of affordable aircraft out there in the that weight class...tail or nose wheels, take your pick!

To finish, I have chosen to let the medical expire rather than put up with the biennial drubbing that the FAA imposes in the form of letter writing and expensive testing that my Docs do not see as necessary due to a stable condition.

Posted by: William Krozack | June 1, 2011 5:40 AM    Report this comment

>>> To finish, I have chosen to let the medical expire rather than put up with the biennial drubbing that the FAA imposes in the form of letter writing and expensive testing that my Docs do not see as necessary due to a stable condition.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 1, 2011 6:39 AM    Report this comment

Gary Caron -- If that is an experimental LSA if you do the upgrades you don't have to set the limitation to the full 1400lbs you can set the gross at 1320lbs and as long as the rest of the flight evenlope qualifies for LSA rules it is my understanding you can fly it as a LSA, but you or even a private pilot can not legally fly it above the 1320 limit that you set. Now if you ever register it at 1400lbs you can never revert back to ELSA.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | June 1, 2011 12:13 PM    Report this comment

Joseph: I think you are correct about ELSA. Also keep in mind if it isn't an ELSA then the builder probably has to meet the 51% rule.

Posted by: Richard Norris | June 1, 2011 12:59 PM    Report this comment

The Sport Pilot and Recreational Pilot programs are failures even with its no medical clause. LSA aircraft cost much more to amortize than the VFR/IFR C150 and C172 “legacy” aircraft. A certificated Private pilot is trained better and becomes more skillful and safer than a Sports (LSA) pilot. A Private pilot program offers a greater market as pilots can fly a wider variety of aircraft, a Sports pilot (LSA) is often limited to the one he/she is trained on.
Presently, there are less than 300 Recreational Pilots after the program has been in effect for 21 years. The Sports Pilot (LSA) program has been in effect for about 7 years and has produced a disappointing low number of pilots, or about 3,900 Sports pilots. Comparing both figures against the 600,000 plus certificated Private/Commercial/ATP pilots, and it fits to say, from a business perspective, that the LSA commerce is a poor market. LSA manufacturers should have come out with $50,000 aircraft as it was expected,therefore the Sports pilot program failure will continue growing.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | June 4, 2011 2:30 AM    Report this comment


The new aircraft that were projected to cost around $50k changed to around $100k in the intervening time because the dollar lost around half its value. This is the same phenomenon as the increases in fuel and food prices. The only way to fix this incredible inflation problem is to get the government and federal reserve to change their policies intended to devalue the dollar.

I submit the Sport Pilot and especially the Light Sport Aircraft programs are a huge success in spite of the dollar and pricing problems. Over two thousand factory built LSAs have been sold, and an unknown number of older pilots have become active again because of the freedom to fly without a medical certificate from our friends at the FAA. The SP/LSA programs have indeed promoted more aviation that wouldn't have happened without the new rules.

This has all happened while the country is in a deep recession. I think the LSA sales and Sport Pilot training will increase when the government finally starts doing the right things and the recession comes to an end.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 4, 2011 5:41 AM    Report this comment

Sorry I am so late getting in on this conversation, but as stated somewhere before in the stack of comments; what started out as a simple question quickly migrated into a myriad of tangents to the original question. I'll try to stick to the original question. From my point of view as an almost 65 year-old,I encourage people to have yearly medical anyway just as a normal maintenance procedure. However, I wish my regular GP could do my 3rd class medical exam instead of me having to pay for an additional exam with an FAA Doc. Also, I am borderline color blind between close shades of red and close shades of green (kept me out of the service) so the color vision test is a real bear for me. I have had no issues flying and driving in all of my years and still don't. I don't fly at night anymore as my current FBO isn't open then. I believe they either need to drop or modify the color vision test. If there are color vision issues then maybe a "day time only restriction' might be better than a "No Pass" on the medical (Note: Day time only may be an option now, but I am not aware of it).

Posted by: Jim Opyd | June 4, 2011 4:57 PM    Report this comment


You can fly with the privileges of a Sport Pilot with only a state driver's license for medical qualification. This limits you to Day/VFR operations and you are limited to flying aircraft that meet the LSA definition in FAR 1.1. There are a few more restrictions but they don't really come into play.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 4, 2011 5:24 PM    Report this comment

There's an "LSA privilege chart" that can be googled! They've made the rules so complex, you might as well learn Russian, Greek, and Swahili, too, while you endeavor to learn the rules. I think you can fly LSA at night, if you have a PPL, and lights on the aircraft, but then, all of it is a very moot point, to me, since I will not pay for an expensive jump backwards, in technology and reliability.

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 4, 2011 5:35 PM    Report this comment


Let me address a few of the misunderstandings in your post.

First, LSA are not limited to daytime operations, Sport Pilots are. LSA can be flown at night with appropriate equipment and at least a PP certificate. There is some heated discussion in the standards community right now about whether or not S-LSA planes can be flown in actual IMC, but that is a whole 'nuther discussion.

To make sense of this complicated new set of rules it is important to distinguish the privileges of a Sport Pilot and the capabilities of a Light Sport Aircraft. These two different new rules are not really related to each other at all. The only relationship is that Sport Pilots are limited to flying LSA.

LSA are not necessarily a jump backwards at all. Some of them qualify as that. For example old Champs and Luscombes meet the definition of LSA. Other LSA are the most modern and up to date planes I have ever seen. They have glass instrument panels, coupled autopilots and all the stuff to qualify as a TAA.

I am not in a position to address your criticism regarding reliability of LSA. Perhaps some are less reliable than type certificated planes, but I suspect many of them are superior.

After flying a new S-LSA (factory built LSA) for a couple of years, I found it to be a real joy to fly. Besides being a new high-tech plane it only burned around 5 gph to go over 130 mph.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 4, 2011 5:58 PM    Report this comment

Paul, could you fly it in the rain, without shorting the spark plugs, or eroding the propellor? Would the prop adjust, from climb to cruise? Would the engine seize, if you swallowed an exhaust valve? Would the landing gear withstand a hard landing? With no counterweighted flight controls, how could you be assured the airframe wouldn't flutter? How long do pop rivets last, if stressed? how long before tetraethyl lead sludges up the engine crankshaft and crankcase?

To me, it's a big step backwards. Sure, I can carry an "iPad" standalone device (installed) for advanced technology, but that could be allowed on GA aircraft, too! It's just bureacracy that makes it cost prohibitive, on GA planes.

I'm sure I could have some nervous fun, in a LSA, when someone else is paying!

Actually, I do fly a friend's Zodiac, and a Sonex, too, but I like the reliability (and power) of my old O-540, the Hartzell constant speed, and I burn non-leaded autogas, in my 80 octane engineered old Lycoming! (The crankshaft has "sludgetubes" to push the lead salts to the filter, if I get stuck purchasing 100LL). Sadly, a lot of LSA flyers think 100LL will help them, when in fact their automotive designed engines are fouled by lead salts. They are not flying 2800 horsepower WWII airplanes, that needed lead to survive detonation!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 4, 2011 11:15 PM    Report this comment

My point is, why can't I be an old-timer "sport" pilot, too, just like my buddies?
I know one old fellow that flies his old C-180 like nobody's business (I'd trust him anytime), and he has a Cessna Skycatcher on backorder, just because he's worried about the medical. Surprisingly, we've been waiting years now, for that Skycather to show up. The Cessna 180, is as reliable, as reliable can be!
It's sad to see him and his plane, drop out aviation, just because humans have blood pressure issues, when they get old!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 4, 2011 11:16 PM    Report this comment


There are over 100 new S-LSA make/model combinations. There are a also E-AB (like the Zodiac and Sonex you mentioned) and TC'd planes like the Champ and Luscombe which meet the LSA definition.

You just can't make blanket statements like unbalanced flight controls about a field this large without certainly being wrong in some cases. The same applies to engines. LSA are equipped with every kind of engine known to man - so long as they are reciprocating. Many LSA use the same engines as TC'd planes. Others use real aircraft engines that you won't find in older certified planes such as the Rotax and Jabiru engines. Still others use converted auto engines.

Your condescending statement about using an iPad really annoyed me. That is the sort of thing folks flying 40 year old TC'd planes do to try to modernize their planes. You find the same uncertified glass panels in LSA as you do in experimentals. I've never heard of either class of plane using an iPad.

I agree with you that the Cessna 180 is a nice plane. At least it was 50 years ago when the last one was built. It flies great - if you don't mind burning 15 gallons of fuel per hour. If we can get the FAA to drop the 3rd class medical (where this conversation started) then you could fly it with the same freedom as you can already fly an LSA. That is fine with me.

You don't have to denigrate the LSA models to justify flying your 180. They both have their benefits and shortcomings.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 4, 2011 11:52 PM    Report this comment

Sorry about some typos, there!
GA is dying for a number of reasons, just like America is being killed by it's most vulnerable point, gasoline prices! To drop the third class medical, would extend the life of GA, allowing experienced, knowledgeable owners to continue flying, with the safety they've always known.
Extra regulation and complexity, only turns away the youthful enthusiasts, coupled with the mantra they always hear about aviation being too expensive.
Even we experienced flyers know when we are licked by high fuel prices, lack of ground transportation, and "rip me off" written all over us when we need service, parts or accessories.
What I see among the more junior enthusiasts, with disposable income, they are better served by motorcycle transportation. They are not inconvenienced as much as people on flying trips. Many local governments don't have bus service connected to their airports, and it's expensive and difficult to get around at your destination.
In my group, many a retired cop, and teacher, opts for the motorcycle, to really have a good time, rather than fly to an empty, deserted, airport!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 4, 2011 11:52 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I'm not denigrating the iPad. Apple is one of my favorite companies. My friend uses his iPad for everything from the sectional charts to weather radar. I should have said "computer power and GPS" is great technology for aviation, but bureaucracy prevents it from going into GA airplanes. It can go into any airplane, if permitted. Really, a portable instrument panel could be used to cover all the steam gauges, and be more accurate and energy efficient than all the gadgets people fly in GA. Maybe that might happen, but not with bureaucracy ruling the way!
I wouldn't mind a Zenith 750, with a Lycoming O-233 or a Continental O-200, but do young people really have $100,000 for an airplane? Do I? No! I'll keep my 235 Piper, thank you!
I love flying, I'll go to deserted airports, but other people just don't want to be bothered with the frustrations, lack of utility, high prices, and regulatory horror of the Federal government.

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 5, 2011 12:11 AM    Report this comment

It's a sad commentary on our regulatory environment that 7 years after adoption, most pilots are still debating the privileges and limitations of Light Sport--both certificates and equipment. Nearly every aviation magazine has been running a column every month for years, trying to make sense of this contradictory and convoluted law.

Gliders, Balloons, ultralights, and now LSA have proven that lack of a medical doesn't result in appreciable increases in cases of pilot incapacitation.

Drop the medical for non-complex aircraft for Private Pilots, and let the marketplace sort out what those pilots will buy. Given that choice of flying legacy aircraft without a medical, I don't think there would be many light sport aircraft sold.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 5, 2011 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Jim, I think there is good agreement from nearly all aviators that the third class medical can be dropped, and I hope that it will be a grass-roots cause pursued by the aviation public, soon!

Light Sport will still have it's niche, that's for sure. A lot of people don't want to invest in airplanes that might be randomly grounded by a regulatory AD note, that happens to legacy airplanes, but not to LSA's. People with lot's of disposable income, will by an LSA, just for that reason alone.

The ultimate ultralight category aircraft, for me, would be the Mosquito Helicopter. Whenever I have $40,000 burning a hole in my pocket, that's where I'm going!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 5, 2011 1:44 PM    Report this comment

We have many years of no-medical data from LTA and glider pilots. They do not seem to be dropping out of the sky due to medical issues any more than third class pilots do.

There is another safety factor in factor in favor or eliminating the third class medical for light aircraft pilots. As a group, they don't fly much, so if they do have a sudden problem it will be on the highway or in the bedroom.

Are there any studies to quantify the effects of pilots avoiding proper care to protect their medicals? I doubt the FAA has funded any serious studies.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | June 5, 2011 11:41 PM    Report this comment

"Absurd as it sounds, we have built an entire aviation segment—and not a very strong one, yet—on the fear of FAA medical certification."

Absurd as it is, if you have reason to believe that you will not pass your next FAA physical, you are NOT fit to fly any aircraft. Yet, that is exactly what happens everyday. It is also obvious that the FAA is turning a blind eye to all of this subterfuge.

So, if the "no medical' guys are not dropping out of the sky any more than the guys with a medical, isn't the 3rd class medical an oxymoron?

Posted by: DAVID HEBERLING | June 6, 2011 4:20 PM    Report this comment

I can't wait until the alphabet groups express the ire of their members and propose this--and the FAA's reaction as they delay and try to defend the undefendable.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 6, 2011 4:25 PM    Report this comment

I agree Third Class Medical should be dropped for basic Private Pilot skills. That said everyone needs to keep in mind that even if the FAA approved this and started the process to 'drop' the third class medical it wouldn't have a significant impact on the private pilot population right away because:

1. It could take a couple years to get it approved through the Federal process.

2. It is very unlikely they will make it retroactive to anyone who has already lost their medical (just like they did for Sport Pilot).

Posted by: Richard Norris | June 6, 2011 5:58 PM    Report this comment

If you lose your medical, you can go through a process, getting a "special issuance" good for six years, with exams taking place every year. At the end of six years, you re-apply for the "special issuance", again good for another six years. A "special issuance" doesn't stop you from being a "sport" pilot.

I know 80 year-olds who can fly better than most 30 year-olds! It's not a degree of physical fitness, it's understanding and managing aerodynamics and kinetic energy, understanding basic aircraft systems, and recognizing weather dangers. It's also having the "maturity" not to be trying to "impress" anyone, knowing when to stay on the ground, and knowing the physiological effects of altitude. It's being able to navigate, when the gadgets don't work!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 6, 2011 6:35 PM    Report this comment

Depending on the nature of the denial and the special issuance, the special issuance may be good for as little as SIX MONTHS. We have an 80-year old at out airport that continues to get his medical every 6 months--there's nothing major WRONG with him, he's just "old." It takes 2 months for his medical to come back--effectively putting him on a constant cycle of medicals and waiting. That isn't fair.

The man can be found shoveling snow away from his hangar in the winter, and mowing with a push mower in the summer.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 6, 2011 6:45 PM    Report this comment

I've read that the alphabet groups will take this issue on, realizing it really is not as controversial as it might have been in the past, when every aviation writer and article had to be up a notch from the general public, you know, "safer" than you, "looks" for traffic better than you do, is more conscientious than you are, talks to ATC more than you do, has better sex than you do, etc.! When you get old enough, you realize a lot of those types died flying, in a mid-air, or a thunderstorm, or in an airplane that fell apart one day!(Or I dare say in an Airbus! The Airbus is a video game, not a seat-of-the-pants airplane).
There's still a lot of "holier than thou" types out there, but they get bit in the butt, too!
There's more of a "grass roots" movement to keep GA alive nowadays, then "one-upping" everybody!
Plus, some of us just want to fly for real, our American heritage of personal freedom close to our hearts, not choosing groping vs. microwaving, in a TSA line to board a video game!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 6, 2011 6:57 PM    Report this comment

>>> if you have reason to believe that you will not pass your next FAA physical, you are NOT fit to fly any aircraft.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 6, 2011 7:31 PM    Report this comment

I had an atrial fibrillation episode while manually hauling 5 gallon buckets of stone for a landscape project February 2008. I continued to fly until my medical was due and then stopped until I could past the year that the FAA said would take to get the AFIB behind me. June 2010 I went to an AME/Cardiologist (big mistake) thinking that my medical would be no problem. Well I was denied and after weekly calls to the FAA I finally received a letter October 2010 telling me what I needed for the FAA in 30 days. My AME insisted that I needed a nuclear stress test rather than a Bruce protocol. Next I was told I needed a stent. The FAA says you have to wait 6 months after the stent to start the procedure all over. Here I am in June starting again to get my license back. If I didn't own a Grumman Lynx and an old Mooney that is a work in progress I would have given up on flying. I have a Sea-Doo RXT iS 255 that scoots over the water at nearly 70 mph and a Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS that they say will go over 150 mph that I could use the day after I got my stent. Both of them new cost less than a 70's 172. It is no wonder why GA is on the decline. I've read through all these post but still have no clue how to do away with the 3rd class medical. If I get my license back I will be 80+ before the medical is no longer valid.

Posted by: Unknown | June 15, 2011 1:42 PM    Report this comment

Oh, and I'm only 66 now. I can drive a 10 ton motorhome up and down the interstate (if I had one), rip around on my motorcycle and have a blast on the Sea-Doo with no license of any kind but I can't fly. Way to go FAA!

Posted by: Unknown | June 15, 2011 1:47 PM    Report this comment

Oh and I forgot Scuba diving because I haven't done it for awhile. It is much more physical than flying. All I need to get back into Scuba is to be checked out. There is no medical. The 3rd class medical is no more than a government sham.

Posted by: Unknown | June 21, 2011 2:03 AM    Report this comment

I'm sure this blog is now an empty house and the doors are closed and everyone has gone home. But since I'm in the process of trying to get my 3rd class medical back the frustrations make me think of other activities that don't have the confines of the federal government I dwell on the issues. I know the idea of the 3rd class medical is that I don't have a medical emergency and fall out of the sky and kill a bounch of innocent people. But what is the reality of that? My wife's recreation is shooting. How many people are killed each year by guns? So let's start a federal agency to regulate gun owners. We will call it the FRA (Federal Rifle Administration). Oh wait that is already taken by the Federal Railroad Administration. Okay let's make it the FGA. Now every 2 years every gun owner has to have a sanity test to be able to own a gun. How long do you think the NRA would stand for that? Where the AOPA instead figures out a way to make money off the medical issues.

Posted by: Unknown | June 21, 2011 10:10 AM    Report this comment


Actually, there is at least one person still getting notices when someone posts to this blog - me. I am so fanatically interested in getting the FAA to see the light and drop the 3rd class medical I still follow this discussion.

Your comments just reinforce what everyone else has said - that the 3rd class medical only serves to keep a bunch of expensive bureaucrats and their bureaucracy employed to no apparent gain for the paying public.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 21, 2011 12:27 PM    Report this comment


I'm glad someone is still around.

I worked on the railroad for over 30 years. At least when I left train men (the guys who run the trains) didn't have to have bienial physicals. Why the airlines?

I saw today there will be new warnings on cigarette packages. Why not a new government agency called the Federal Tobacco Administration. You would have to have a license to be able to buy tobacco products. A bienial medical would be required to keep your license. Crazy uh? How many people die every year because of tabacco use? I venture to guess many more than those of us that fly.

So why do we pilots allow the discriminaton that the government inflicts on us? Are we full of ourselves and really believe that flying is such an artform that only those special people can perform and therfore we need to be over regulated? Are too many pilots apathetic to the cause of no third class medicals because they have always been able to pass theirs. Or is our group so small we have no say in how we are governed?

Posted by: Unknown | June 21, 2011 9:31 PM    Report this comment


There are some very funny dynamics at work here.

Some of us, like me, want to follow the rules and still be able to do the things that seem appropriate. The government bureaucrats, like all bureaucrats in all countries, are interested in reducing risk to zero for everyone - especially themselves.

The funny part is many people have learned the FAA has almost no enforcement power. Pilots, for the most part, do their best to follow the tortuous and ever increasing rules put forth by the FAA and other government agencies on a purely voluntary basis. However, many pilots don't bother. They just do what they think is right and ignore the FAA. If they are flying their own aircraft there is almost nothing the FAA can do about it.

In the medical arena, I heard from an FAA regional medical guy that 10 percent of the pilots in fatal accidents are taking prescription drugs forbidden by the bureaucracy (even though they keep the "List" secret). This includes Valium, Vicodin, and Prosac. If they disclosed this drug use they would be grounded, so they just don't disclose it. They are still completely legal to drive, but flying requires satisfying a ridiculous bureaucracy that doesn't approve of most drugs.

With the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rule, people like me (Private Pilot since 1971) can make our own decisions and still be "Legal" with the FAA. Now I would like to see this freedom to "Be Legal" extended to all private pilot operations (i.e. part 91).

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 21, 2011 10:15 PM    Report this comment

I still follow this conversation, too. It gives me some faith that people still understand our human right "to pursue happiness", as I was taught in school in the '50's.

People say "ditto" to Rush Limbaugh. Well, I say "ditto" to Paul Mulwitz, here, and hope that others do, also!

Posted by: Ron Brown | June 22, 2011 12:58 AM    Report this comment

Sometimes I envy those people that can break the rules without guilt. But for me (Private Pilot since only 2000) it is hard no matter how inane they are. That is why I'm so into getting rid of the third class medical. How many other activities have so much government restrictions as flying. I would like to be able to fly as long as I think I'm fit not some bureaucrat miles away.

Posted by: Unknown | June 22, 2011 7:56 AM    Report this comment

I lost my medical due to a condition which has subsequently been resolved through surgery. It is legal for me to drive a car in any state. However, I'll never get my medical back because I have to use unapproved drugs, which have no bearing on my ability to fly. I'm very happy that folks who have had heart attcks and people with diabetes can get a special issuance and fly. I just wish the FAA would consider my condition. However, they won't, and unless they remove the 3rd class medical, I'll never fly again. And yet we wonder why the numbers of active pilots continue to decline.

Posted by: David Brown | July 30, 2011 10:28 PM    Report this comment

David, Some of the problem might be the pilots that have never experienced a medical issue and think they never will. If all 3rd class medical pilots got together we could probably do away with the 3rd class medical. For me my AME just passed me with flying colors to get my medical back and now I wonder how much longer I will be grounded until the FAA acts.

Posted by: Unknown | July 31, 2011 7:21 PM    Report this comment

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government. So let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so that the second will not become the legal version of the first." - Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: Ron Brown | August 1, 2011 1:23 AM    Report this comment

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government. So let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so that the second will not become the legal version of the first." - Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: Ron Brown | August 1, 2011 1:24 AM    Report this comment

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