Third Class Medical Across The Goal


Third class medical reform finally staggers across the finish line and now what? I find myself in a binary state of mind. On the bright side, I’m enthusiastic and grateful for the work that went into getting this legislation passed—by Senator Jim Inhofe and co-sponsors and by the advocacy groups. They deserve recognition for the effort. I wish all had done more, but I can’t describe what “more” is, other than eliminating the medical requirement entirely which, while supportable and logical, is a political non-starter. Yes, the results of this long process reek of political compromise, but let’s just get over that. Everything does. The new reality is less intrusive than the old reality. It’s that simple.

On the dark side, I’ve had just enough conversations with just enough people to have heard that pilots are confused about what this reform will do for them, aren’t sure if it applies to them or worry that the FAA won’t implement it in anything remotely resembling a timely fashion in a way that matches the intent of the bill. That last bit worries me, for the FAA has a history of dragging its feet on congressional mandates with no particular accountability for anyone in the agency. The bill gives the agency a year to put the new rules in place, but puts it on a six-month timeline to produce the actual governing rules. The good thing is that if the FAA demurs on delivering, the provisions of the law automatically go into effect anyway, a year after enactment. Enactment should be Friday.

Mustering all the blind enthusiasm I can while conceding I can’t believe I’m typing this, maybe this time will be different in terms of reduced regulation actually getting a grip. While this is definitely a rollback of onerous regulation and a step in the right direction, it’s a measure of our desperation that the celebratory gunfire is already getting a little intense here. But save a few rounds for next summer, when the rule actually goes into effect and we see who it benefits and how. I’m hoping it’s not fewer than any of us imagined.

And as with any regulatory turbulence, there will be consequences. Will this absolutely gut the struggling light sport industry? Will it ignite the long awaited shakeout? I wouldn’t expect to see much impact on the rarified world of new aircraft sales, but what about used sales? Will used aircraft prices, long in the doldrums, get hot again? (That’s actually a good thing.) And what about the insurance markets? Insurers tend to be conservative and slow-moving and may not even notice the changes in actuarial terms worthy of noting. I’ll be researching this a little more next week.

So what’s this gonna be? A 20-knot headwind shearing to a 15-knot tailwind? Or a 15-knot quartering headwind dropping to calm? I’m guessing the latter, based on what others have told me, but I’ll be happy to be wrong. Either way, it’s a positive step in the right direction after a seemingly endless season of bad news, sour sales trends and overbearing, pointless regulation.

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