Bad Rules Undermine Credibility Of Regulators


The full report by the Office of Inspector General on the FAA’s implementation of BasicMed reveals it was a politically driven rush job and the agency is hiding behind gaps in the Congressional mandate to avoid fixing some pretty glaring voids in its effectiveness.

As we reported earlier this week, the OIG found that the FAA has no way of verifying that BasicMed participants meet the basic requirements of exercising that privilege, namely that they hold a valid driver’s license and that they’ve been examined by a doctor.

But what wasn’t immediately clear in our first pass over this story is that the agency has no plans to fix those enormous gaps and the OIG has not compelled them to do so.

The full document offers a fascinating look at the rulemaking process and, for the cynics among us, some justification for the erosion of trust in the regulatory underpinnings of the system.

Granted, BasicMed isn’t in the same league as certifying airliners but rot comes from within and there are a few things in this report that suggest the agency is less interested in doing the right thing than it is in doing the most expedient thing.

Perhaps more significant is that it might show that the malaise identified in the 737 MAX probe is perhaps endemic in the organization as a whole and not confined to the safety division, which has been the focus of most of the attention in the last couple of years.

BasicMed was born of an act of Congress (FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016) that resulted from a lobbying effort led mostly by the alphabets and some GA-friendly congressmen. The legislation gave the FAA 180 days to come up with a rule and it was published on the 180th day.

Nominally, the goal was to ease the bureaucratic burden on those who fly mostly for fun. If we’re being honest, though, it’s also about stemming the attrition of boomer pilots who are inevitably feeling their age and are unwilling to put up with all the extra attention their deteriorating bodies get in the AME’s office.

Central to the creation of the new rules was that if a pilot could hold a valid driver’s license, he or she should be able to hold a non-commercial pilot certificate with restrictions on the size and complexity of the aircraft they fly. 

The rule requires those flying under BasicMed to hold a valid driver’s license but the FAA doesn’t check. The FAA does check driver’s license records to see if pilots have any DUIs or drug-related license suspensions but it does that for holders of all certificates and holding a driver’s license is not a requirement for any FAA certificate other than BasicMed.

The OIG says there are more than 100 ways to lose a driver’s license, but the agency hasn’t implemented any other mechanisms to check on the driver’s license status of BasicMed pilots and isn’t planning any. “FAA does not require pilots to provide information confirming that they hold a valid driver’s license when registering for BasicMed, and FAA’s current process does not verify that they do,” the OIG report says. “An FAA official told us that there is no plan to add a process to verify that BasicMed pilots actually hold valid driver’s licenses.”

Just for fun, the OIG decided to do a little check of its own and with a few keystrokes found that about 850 of the 55,000 BasicMed pilots might not have valid driver’s licenses.

BasicMed also requires that holders get a complete physical from a state-licensed doctor at least once every four years and that the doctor sign off on their fitness to fly. But the agency doesn’t check to see if those signing the forms are actually doctors, even though the FAA’s own Office of Aerospace Medicine pulled 600 BasicMed files at random in 2019 and found that 3 percent of those were signed off by nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and others who were not actually doctors. Again, agency officials told OIG it’s not going to verify doctors’ credentials but in this case it’s because they say the Act doesn’t tell them to and it would essentially be too much hassle to create that relatively simple safeguard.

“According to these officials, this is because a process to verify physicians’ credentials was not included in the Act, and they believe this action would require additional rulemaking that would be difficult to issue with the current policy of reducing regulations,” the OIG report says. The OIG also isn’t buying that argument. “It is unclear why verifying this information would require rulemaking as opposed to a revision of FAA’s internal policy.”

To sum it all up, the OIG says this in its conclusion: “FAA took steps to implement BasicMed in compliance with legislative requirements. However, the lack of procedures to identify pilots who should not be flying under BasicMed and prevent them from operating aircraft raises questions about the impact of the new rule.” 

In other words, it went through the motions and the result was a regulation that’s full of holes. So it would follow that the OIG would recommend the FAA take steps to fill those holes but it doesn’t exactly do that. 

Instead, the recommendation says the agency should determine if compliance with the rules is a safety issue and says the agency should “conduct a risk assessment of the issues related to valid driver’s licenses and use of State-licensed physicians noted in this report, and implement processes to mitigate any identified risks.”

So, the upshot of all this is that even though the deficiencies in BasicMed are obvious and on the record, it would appear nothing is going to be done about them.

This is the kind of thing that undermines the regulatory environment and its fair and balanced application. Fortunately, most people abide by the rules and the intent of those rules but when those who regulate us can’t be bothered to write good rules that are fairly and uniformly applied, we all lose a little respect for the system.

BasicMed was well accepted by pilots, the public and the government and it seems to be working as intended. Time will tell if it poses a safety risk but last time I looked it wasn’t raining 172s and Cherokees. Our resident data guru Paul Bertorelli has reviewe hundreds of accident reports and says it’s hard to find any that involve medical issues with the pilot. It could be argued that medical qualifications for non-commercial pilots are useless and should be abandoned.

But we’ve had that argument and the tortured result was BasicMed and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So it would seem like an easy thing to patch these holes and ensure it works as intended. The agency’s unwillingness to do so, and the OIG’s unwillingness to demand it, are a little eerie.

It’s easy to dismiss this particular issue as a minor blip in an otherwise robust regulatory environment but it sounds a little too familiar and that might suggest it’s a manifestation of greater problems at the FAA.

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

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  1. BasicMed may be a flawed rule, but I don’t think it’s a bad rule. I think the DL verification “issue” isn’t really an issue, and it affects Sport Pilots too. A lot of aviation depends on honesty; who can truly verify that what someone puts in their logbook is genuine? Who can verify that every pilot flying is flying on a valid pilot certificate and medical? Much of the verification happens after the fact when there has been an incident. Short of performing a lot of regular ramp checks, you’ll never catch all of the minority of pilots intentionally skirting the rules, and the reality is that there are more important things to focus on anyway.

  2. When you are making big regulatory changes, fast is almost always bad.
    I would suggest the real problem was the decision to use the driver’s license as a proxy for medical fitness, something I would suggest is just silly.

    Canada has a much better system. The Basic Med equivalent is a Transport Canada Class 4 Medical good for 5 years. Pilots have to bring a form to any Medical Doctor and have them sign off medical fitness. The form is mailed to Transport Canada and a new medical cert is issued. Part of the check is verified doctors credentials through a doctor database.

    So pilots get a real look at by a real doctor, but without the hassles of the traditional aviation medical.

  3. I see BasicMed in an entirely different way than you describe here or the OIG portends. I have followed this issue in very great depth for years, consider myself an expert on its gestation and have some very strong opinions about it. I see what’s happening as very similar to the tactic of “unnamed sources” being quoted by the news media when they want to slaughter someone without having to personally step up to the plate with the “real” story and/or to identify the principals. There’s more than driver’s license and MD signatures going on here.

    For years, pilots flying recreationally in simple low end airplanes sought regulatory relief from onerous medical requirements which made little sense to them … the end user. The alphabet soup organizations — likewise — tried to lobby the FAA to lighten up and got nowhere … for decades and on many tries. I, myself, attended at least three Airventure “Meet the Boss” forums where the Administrator, Michael Huerta, essentially gave us all “oral gratification” saying the subject was in the Ex Parte process. Those forums were filled standing room only with pilots expecting to hear that medical relief had passed. In fact, the Administrator even had bodyguards and dogs(sic) knowing the subject was contentious. All the crowd got was Bravo Sierra! How the heck long does it take hoardes of overpaid, mostly underworked experts and their Army of lawyers to get something done? It became obvious to all that we were having smoke injected year on year and “someone” — the mythical ‘they’ — didn’t want it to happen.

    A bright spot in the evolving process was Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) who served on the proper Committee. As one of the aging pilots himself and tired of the heavy hand of FAA bureaucrats — many of whom are NOT pilots ergo no vested interest — he capitalized on the perfect timing opportunity in 2016 when the FAA was going to run out of budget. He wanted to make a pure driver’s license medical Law but in order to get enough Senators to sign on, had to compromise. Chief among the people he had to satiate was MY (then) Senator, Bill Nelson (D-FL) who had six other Senators in his “pocket.” Sen. Inhofe told me that in person at Airventure 2018. Had the FAA passed the equivalent (but more stringent) version of medical relief that the FAA had in their “ex parte” process, there’d have been no need for BasicMed and any such change would likely have been administered by the Aeromedical group in OKC. Instead, HE ostensibly forced BasicMed on the FAA via The Act … as you say. They either accepted it or … they wouldn’t get any budget in 2016. And it STILL (sic) didn’t get implemented for nearly another year until May 3, 2017.

    In the process of turning the Law into Regulation via Advisory Circular AC68-1, the FAA and Aeromedical Group tried to pull another “fast one” on the target population. So before May 1, 2017, the date the descriptive AC was to go into effect, it was forced to be updated into a newer version, AC68-1A on May 3, 2017. I won’t go into what the differences are other than to say what popped out was closer to what Sen. Inhofe intended and is substantial yet subtle. Just trust me on that one. I don’t want to elaborate.

    There’s another point most people don’t understand. And this comes to me both from a Regional AME and a FSDO Ops Inspector. BasicMed is not managed or policed by the Aeromedical Group in OKC. It is managed at the FSDO level. And THERE is the rub. I believe the AME’s in OKC are mad and want to gain command again. Unless a BasicMed pilot suffers one of the dreaded three issues requiring a new one time Special Issuance by an AME, they’re operating out of the AME system. And therein lies the rub.

    So now we’re at the present and the subject du jour. Suddenly, the OIG decides that there’s no process to tie Driver’s License status to BasicMed. Or, to verify that a valid licensed MD signed the form. For God’s sake, the Government can track a single cow with Mad Cow disease to the specific farm it lives on but can’t do that. This is a further indictment of an FAA management team (as opposed to the rank and file working person in the FSDO’s) as a totally inept, out of control and drunk with power organization with people working in small unsupervised fiefdoms. Strong words to be sure. I’ve been in aviation over half a century and — frankly — I’m sick of it. BasicMed IS working. As YOU say, PA28’s and C172’s aren’t raining on civilians heads and those who choose to avail themselves OF it are happy. I smell a rat anyways. As I often said during my long USAF career … there’s ALWAYS more to the story. There’s the “things seen” and “things NOT seen” aspect to this issue. Pilots using BasicMed … BEWARE ! They’re coming … again.

    The OIG ought to be focusing its efforts on the 737Max fiasco and other more important issues, not splitting hairs on this subject. Safety is NOT compromised, the process is — by and large — working and that’s all I know. Leave us alone! Apply your efforts to getting MOSAIC passed. Do something constructive.

    • Thinking about the dog and pony show the former Administrator put on during three different years’ Meet the Boss forum at Airventure on this subject, I was reminded that he kept saying, “How do ‘WE’ get to Yes,” year after year while he simultaneously hid behind “Ex Parte” rules. More recently, the unelected bureaucrats that call themselves “FAA” talk about Performance Based Regulations as a descriptive method for day-to-day operations. When you compare that to what the OIG is talking about here, it’s all hot air. At least it seems so to me.

      Meanwhile, now reading about “More 787 Flaws Reported, 680 Aircraft May Be Involved” dated Sep. 13, 2020, on Avweb, there’s a statement that, “The FAA has confirmed it’s looking into the issue and hasn’t decided on any action yet.” Sound familiar? Didn’t they learn anything from the Max debacle? What the heck do the people in the upper echelons of management within FAA do except throw rocks in everyone’s way, say “No” to everything or make excuses for not acting faster? I hereby invite the Administrator to respond directly … right here on Avweb. Tell us, Sir. Interested aviators would like to know.

      The OIG oughta sink their teeth into THAT question re: the Dreamliner.

      And it’s not gonna get any better. I know numerous (good) FAA employees who work in the trenches who are planning on retiring as fast as they can to get away from … the you know what. Given what’s happening in aviation overall, their replacements are not likely to be experienced aviators, maintainers or even interested individuals.

      I now see that Avweb has a poll out asking readers if they’re using BasicMed or planning to. Of ~100 respondents, 48% said “Yes” and 3% more said they’re planning to when I responded. Now add the fact that ~56,000 people are — apparently — using BasicMed to fly, I’d call Sen. Inhofe’s work a resounding success. All of us should thank him; I did — directly — more than once.

  4. Great article, Russ, and great and informative comment, Larry S. While it looks like the pilots using BasicMed will be the ones to get the bulk of the blame and be required to jump through new hoops to make everything better, the OIG report highlights the FAA’s unwillingness to abide by the rule by its taking on a role of helplessness. Ironic that the FAA is hiding behind the desire to limit new regulations as one of its reasons “We can’t because…”

    Internal agency procedures are not regulations They are job functions-descriptions-instructions. The rule tells them what to do. They figure out how to do it and put it in the manual. Is it so hard to contact states’ transportation departments to verify valid drivers’ licenses? Pretty sure law enforcement knows how to do this. Does the FAA resist because that process was Not Invented Here? Same thing with who is and who is not an MD. You would think some of the lawyers on the FAA staff would be able to advise them on how to do this while crossing all the t’s, dotting all the i’s, and yes, jumping through the hoops – for once.

  5. FAA needs to leave basicmed alone. The government can’t stand the lack of red tape. We have a requirement to have a DL and a doctor sign off. They need to trust us – and punish us if for some reason they find we are not compliant. Pilots will generally comply due to insurance requirements.

  6. Several varied viewpoints here, most valid in some fashion. One of the best comments and most accurate is “When you are making big regulatory changes, fast is almost always bad.”
    I have never, ever produced any document or guidance on doing anything that didn’t take several revisions after being enacted. The FAA certainly can’t do any better.
    It is clear that in doing things like easing off on the medical requirements there also has to be a strong but manageable system of checks and balances. I am not a lawyer, I am not a bureaucrat, I am not an elected official at any level but I am quite positive that the FAA never looked at the manpower or budget requirements necessary to oversee this program. Therefore, I am sure that it simply got “dumped” onto the lowest level possible within the agency and naturally gets ignored to the maximum extent possible.
    The article states that there are about 55,000 Basic Med certificates out there. Not a large number to track for say, 3 or 4 people in an office designed and staffed for that specific purpose. Such and office and staffing though, doesn’t exist in the budget so….. While the Basic Med is a great idea and a boon to the interest group, it was put together too fast with no real fore-thought and the results with their inherent problems are as much the fault of Congress as they are the FAA.

  7. The problem with Basic Med is that it assumes that obtaining a Class 3 Medical, at some point in ones life, is necessary to fly a plane as a private pilot. It has been proven, time and time again, that medical incapacitation so rarely causes accidents (and is not predicted by even 1st Class Medical), that it is not worth the burden to require all private pilots to obtain a 3rd Class Medical in the first place. A burden which prevents older people, those most capable of affording GA and keeping it alive, from becoming pilots in the first place. The Sports Pilot license has proven that a 3rd Class Medical is not necessary to fly safely.

    I do support that a basic course & test covering current standards of safe flight (medical, airspace, ground operations, etc) be part of every performance based biannual flight check.

  8. Written as if regulators have any credibility to begin with.

    I have been exercising the privileges of one certificate or another for over 30 years. (Yeah, it went by fast). Commercial, Instrument ratings, CFI-IA.

    Why did I start to take advantage of Basic Med? Let’s face it, the third class medical was a joke. Lots of people passed it by AMEs who held a mirror up to your face to fog it. Not saying it’s right, but, how does going to an AME every defined cycle based on the class outweigh the decision your own PCP makes based on seeing you over the course of years for normal medical care? It doesn’t. The AME makes a point in time decision based on a single observation, I would posit that your PCP is in a better position to make a decision based on the trend(s) he sees in your blood work, weight, etc. over the course of time.

    Do people abuse the system? Yes. People abuse the ‘official’ system, too, both inside and outside the belly of the beast.

    It sounds like some are ginning up a hegelian dialectic: create a crisis and then suggest that the government (via it’s war making power to force compliance or face consequences) is the ideal vehicle to address it.

    Wrong. As they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. In this day and age, I’d add reliance on science. Show the numbers, percentages, etc. Compare rates to existing more complex solutions. If the feds aren’t exercising due process and doing what they’re supposed to, then it’s THEIR feet that need be held to the fire, not the 99%+ Basic Med holders who have followed the rules.

    And, SO WHAT if it means that “…If we’re being honest, though, it’s also about stemming the attrition of boomer pilots who are inevitably feeling their age and are unwilling to put up with all the extra attention their deteriorating bodies get in the AME’s office.” You’ll get there some day, and while the joys of youth soon give way to the realities of the calendar, (and there will always be the outliers which attempt to skew the otherwise sober attention to skill preservation), again, where are the statistics which indicate that the reality of Basic Med, for the pilot population, is deleterious to overall safety.

    If there is a problem, again, it’s not at the end user, but bureaucratic level. Why beat those who benefit to satisfy the government drones?

  9. Geez Russ. Why dont your join Maxine Waters and Sheila Jackson in finding more ways to Shackle Pilots? I have a friend that Cut the corner of the Airport Traffic area. He went in for his visit and was He was told by the Attorney for the Western region that “You GA pilots are a Dinosaur in the system and we are going to eliminate you”. There is the attitude you are dealing with.

    Russ, you are putting forth the notion that pilots should be constantly singled out for onerous and rigorous medical hoops to jump through. While God only knows how many people are driving cars and killing others whiteout any requirement to prove they are physically fit to operate a vehicle .
    Why give credence to the regulators to hamstring pilots. Give basic med a chance and lets see if all these horrible predictions you are espousing prove to be credible. Then if it is all as horrible as you predict, make changes.

    • I wanted to say that directly but held back, Ron. With all the people trying to “do” us, we don’t need no mo’ help!

      BasicMed is working, it isn’t broken, it’s making lots of “boomer” pilots (the guys with the $$ to keep the system fed) happy and that’s that. There’s nothing more to say. Leave it alone!

  10. I don’t quite get why having a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant do the medical is a problem. They can do almost everything a doctor can do, and might have the time to do a more thorough exam than a doctor would.

  11. I did Basic Med in lieu of the 3rd class medical this last March as it fits the type of flying I do at this time. I’m 63 and in good health overall. I’d like to do instruction in 2 years as a part time retirement gig. I’ll need go back to the 3rd class if that pans out as that would be under a commercial certificate.

    All the forms filled out for Basic Med cover the exact same questions as the 3rd class medical. My physician gave me a more thorough physical than any AME did over decades of 3rd class medicals. He meticulously went over each item requested on the FAA Basic Med checkout form. As I have health insurance through my employer the exam cost me the $25.00 copay instead of $130 to $150 for the AME. So if the rules are followed it works.

    A couple things I’d like to see considered that I don’t think would dumb down the process would be to allow the nurse practitioners and physician assistants to do the physicals. They can always counsel with the physician if they run into something unusual. I do see a nurse practitioner from time to time who is a DNP so Doctor does apply there, however they could not by law do the Basic Med exam.

    The goal was initially if you can drive a car you are probably OK to fly a plane. Hence the drivers license requirement. I’m glad there’s an exam needed as well. My aunt was 92 before she quit driving but no way would I fly with her in command :). There also needs to be some waiver or alternate approval of a drivers license. In Iowa where I live your drivers license can be suspended if you fall behind on child support which would have nothing to do with your ability to pilot an aircraft. Although if you can’t pay child support maybe you can’t afford to fly either but who am I to ground someone for that.

    All the Best and tailwinds.

    • You can provide instruction without any medical whatsoever, since a flight instructor isn’t a commercial pilot nor a passenger. You’re a teacher who just happens to be sitting next to (or in front of or behind) the student in an airplane. You only need a medical if you’ll be acting as PIC, and my understanding is that BasicMed would work just fine for that.

      The only real issue I can think of with BasicMed is that you can run into a problem when two pilots are using BasicMed for medical compliance and one wants to fly under the hood to practice some approaches. In that case, the safety pilot now *has* to be PIC, because BM doesn’t apply to “required crewmembers”, as a safety pilot would be. In reality, the BM-only pilot may actually be *less likely* to be incapacitated than a 3rd-class holder who only sees an AME (and no other doctors) once every 2-5 years.

      I think one of the other commentators had it correct: OKC is mad that they’ve been left out of the process for BM, other than for the initial 3rd-class.

  12. Instead of adopting the OIG’s point of view you could have argued against the OIG’s push to increase government bureaucracy.

    “…the FAA’s implementation of BasicMed reveals it was a politically driven rush job.” You mean as opposed to the previous decades of bureaucratic, no progress inaction?

    “…some pretty glaring voids in its effectiveness.” You later proclaim its effectiveness; “BasicMed was well accepted by pilots, the public and the government and it seems to be working as intended.”

    “BasicMed was born of an act of Congress (FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016) that resulted from a lobbying effort led mostly by the alphabets and some GA-friendly congressmen.” Give credit where due. AOPA had been trying without success for decades to get third class medical reform. Sen. Inhofe’s legislation that resulted in BasicMed not only made it happen but gave pilots even more than what the AOPA and EAA had been asking for.

    According to an Air Facts article from 2013, “…AOPA and EAA submitted a request to the FAA that would essentially eliminate the third class medical for pilots exercising the rights of a Recreational Pilot (one passenger, 180 hp or less, daytime, etc.).” I believe the AOPA was as surprised as the rest of us to get six seats, IFR, up to 18,000 and 250 kts. Thank goodness we didn’t have to settle for what the alphabets were asking.

    “Nominally, the goal was to ease the bureaucratic burden on those who fly mostly for fun. If we’re being honest, though, it’s also about stemming the attrition of boomer pilots who are inevitably feeling their age and are unwilling to put up with all the extra attention their deteriorating bodies get in the AME’s office.” My medical doctor gives my body more attention than the AME ever did. I switched to BasicMed at age 62 simply because it was four years instead of two.

    “ … the FAA’s own Office of Aerospace Medicine pulled 600 BasicMed files at random in 2019 and found that 3 percent of those were signed off by nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and others who were not actually doctors.” As a doctor, I can tell you that throughout our medical system, “providers” of all aspects of our medical care are increasingly not medical doctors.

    “So, the upshot of all this is that even though the deficiencies in BasicMed are obvious and on the record, it would appear nothing is going to be done about them.” Perhaps some of these so-called deficiencies are a step in the right direction. As you say, “It could be argued that medical qualifications for non-commercial pilots are useless and should be abandoned.”

  13. “Bad Rules Undermine Credibility of Regulators”…the title says it all but the article suggests that BasicMed is the beginning of the trend of lost credibility. And we have the OIG, another regulatory beast with questionable regulatory credibility, calling out the FAA which has a long history ( at least from my perspective) of regulatory credibility issues. The lack of regulatory credibility within our government has been demonstrated for decades with the FAA and OIG just two of a vast federal, tax-dollar fed, uber-bloated, completely political driven, black hole, sucking up our national/domestic/local resources and creative energy.

    I agree with Bryan B…this is classic a Hegelian dialectic…create a crisis within one bureaucracy with the solution being another bureaucracy’s edict(s). However, when we see this, the real questions have to be why, why now, and why BasicMed? This out of the blue OIG report seems to me a smoke screen, a diversionary effort to get the pilot community’s attention focused on an issue that has no safety statistics to support the idea aluminum and plastic raining from the skies.

    A Hegelian dialectic has a purpose other than what is suggested on the surface. There is more to this story and its sudden motivation to be brought to the surface than we presently know. I feel we are getting primed before another regulatory start leading to the regulatory engine running that will remove the simplicity of BasicMed and replaced with something far more complex.

    As Larry S so well articulated, BasicMed got accomplished simply by leveraging, or better yet with-holding the “meat to the junkyard dog”, that being tax-payer funded money, by Senator Inhofe to get the best regulatory medical relief law passed that was possible in the final minutes of the 11th hour of literally decades of verbal Bravo Sierra medical relief regulatory promises by the FAA. This typical Hail Mary pass form of legislation ( aka “meat with-holding”) is now and has been the standard protocol of Congress for decades. Need I say anything about Covid-19/Stimulus 2 as a classic example of modern US legislation/political “meat with-holding”?

    Today, whatever the proposed legislation in the works may be, in the end, it’s all about the money and the management of that “meat”. It has little, if anything to do with the best interest of the citizenry end-user. This recent BasicMed debate is just another nail in the coffin of aviation regulatory credibility erosion for me. As the first user in my area of BasicMed in 2018, at least I got another two years before dealing with whatever new version of BasicMed will potentially surface by 2022.

    As far as I am concerned, the FAA has all my home info via aircraft registration, ADS-B, and their automatic investigation providing enough personal information whether I have any past DUI’s or drug issues. If they want to know current status of my Class A, HAZMAT, double, triple, and tanker endorsed driver’s license, all they gotta do is call any local policeman/constable/sheriff, state trooper, DOT official with a laptop installed in their cruiser, or weigh station/DMV to find out if my DL is still valid. Likewise, a simple call to my medical provider will substantiate those credentials. Not hard to do, not expensive, no need for new rules to accomplish. Let their fingers do the walking. But that is too easy…and certainly not the modus oporandi of modern US legislation.

  14. Good article, Russ, but I must take issue with your title: “Bad Rules Undermine Credibility of Regulators”. The insinuation is that BasicMed is a bad rule, when most contend it is the opposite. Yes, it has its issues, but those are mainly due to the haphazard way in which it came into being. The FAA is rife with Not Invented Here syndrome and it was clear to Sen. Inhofe and others that the Agency had no intention of ever making changes to medical certification, so they did an end run to get something accomplished. Any time the Agency gets something jammed down their throats, it becomes a red-headed stepchild that receives minimal, if any, support. The FAA should have taken the basic framework and tweaked it to eleiminate the inconsistencies and streamline its processes. But, no one wants to take on the burden of working with something they didn’t want in the first place. Add to that, that the OIG’s raison d’etre is to find problems. No one gets an attaboy for saying everything is okay, so they turn over rocks until they find a “problem” and then they pounce. Where better to find problems than in a standard no one wanted. My question to the OIG is, where were they with the mess that was revealed in the 737 MAX debacle? The FAA is pretty well up to its a$$ in alligators with those problems, so we can hope they just leave BasicMed alone and concentrate on fixing what is really broken.

  15. When I read Russ Niles article on the Basic Med issue with the OIG, I thought I was reading an article by CNN, MSNBC or some other left wing media outlet that was drumming up more support for more bureaucracy. Maybe Russ should have others in the office proofread his articles from now on.
    Dick W.

  16. How about solution (Basic Med) is meeting safety goal? If there is an uptick in incapacitated mishap pilots who were using Basic Med over 3rd Class, then there’s an issue, if not, tidy your drawers and leave us alone.

    On PA’s etc vs MD’s if you aren’t in Medicare yet, you may not realize Medicare does not provide “physicals”, only “screenings” by non-MD’s (PA’s, etc)…for the Basic Med target audience of aging population this subtlety was probably overlooked when written…if our government (Medicare) doesn’t think a physical by an MD is worth paying for because it is not medically effective, then why should our government (FAA) insist upon it?

    There’s plenty of other stuff to fix at FAA entirely within FAA span of control, for instance…why is an FSS briefing not considered “all available information” when it comes to event TFRs? How about the FAA and event venues get together with a NOTAM process that requires event coordinators to contact FAA to activate a specific event NOTAM…if FAA is crying that it can’t check MD or DL databases, how does it expect pilots to know all event venues and dates/times of events?? and if you want to automate FSS and move away from voice briefings, don’t put “weasel words” on TFR NOTAM page that says it isn’t definitive and you must call FSS at 1-800… for latest.

  17. I agree with others who noted that it’s mainly a turf battle by Aeromedical personnel at FAA& OIG.
    As a critical care MD and pilot of 46 years now flying under BasicMed, I feel that the program has demonstrated an excellent margin of safety.Self-certification of private pilots should be adequate for those willing to participate in education, especially about adverse effects of medications and the few disqualifying medical conditions.

  18. Russ:

    I guess my reaction is, “who cares.” We have folks flying around without a medical at all. Catch them on a ramp check, or write them a letter to see their Basic Med and DL. It is the PIC’s responsibility to follow the rules.


    Vince Massimini
    Kentmorr Airpark MD (3W3)