As you know, the 3rd class medical exemption has been the most important advocacy goal for EAA for some time. In March of 2012, EAA and AOPA filed a petition with the FAA that would allow pilots to fly four or fewer seat, single engine, fixed prop, 180-horsepower maximum aircraft with two souls on board in day-VFR with a driver’s license in lieu of a 3rd class medical. The FAA has yet to respond to that petition, and many pilots were wondering what the next step would be, given the stalled petition.
Now we know. EAA advocacy representatives worked closely with several Congressmen to address the issue, and the result is a bill introduced in the House today that would allow pilots to fly with a driver’s license in lieu of a medical, with some conditions that are outlined in the story below. I will update this post as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: This bill has been assigned number H.R. 3708. EAA will be calling on members to contact their representatives when Congress is back in session after the new year in late January. Contacting them now when the offices are going to be all but closed for a month is not the best way to get their attention. We will use the Rally Congress tool that we have very successfully deployed in the past to enable our membership to send letters to their representatives, and we will send an all-member email when that tool is ready to go.
December 11, 2013 – Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced a bill in the U.S. House today that seeks to abolish the third class medical certificate for many pilots who fly recreationally. The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Richard Hanna (R-NY), would require recreational pilots to hold a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third-class medical certificate and operating under specific limitations.
“This legislation addresses two goals EAA has long advocated: Eliminating excess red tape in the medical certification process while maintaining a safe way to keep pilots flying,” said Jack Pelton, EAA’s chairman of the board. “Our members and the general aviation community have long supported a change in the medical certification process. This proposal will maintain safety, reduce costs for pilots and the federal government, and allow people to pursue the unique freedom of flight in the same way they can pursue other powered recreational activities.”
The proposed rule would allow pilots to use a valid state driver’s license in place of the traditional medical certificate if:
- The flights are not for compensation
- Conducted in VFR operations only, at or below 14,000 feet MSL
- No faster than 250 knots
- In aircraft with no more than six seats and no more than 6,000 pounds gross takeoff weight.
In addition to allowing pilots to operate common GA aircraft for recreational without a third-class medical, the bill also mandates that the FAA prepare and send a report to Congress detailing the impact of the bill’s passage on general aviation safety within five years of the bill’s enactment.
“EAA and other GA associations worked with Rep. Rokita in developing this legislation, as we are committed to lowering barriers to aviation participation,” said Sean Elliott, vice president of EAA advocacy and safety. “This legislation is a step toward both of those goals. The third-class medical certificate does little to evaluate the day-to-day fitness of pilots flying recreationally. There are better ways to maintain high medical standards for aviation and allow people the freedom for individuals to enjoy the world of flight.”
The bill is another step in EAA’s effort to maintain aviation safety while growing participation in aviation. EAA and other aviation groups have regularly petitioned the FAA for medical certification updates and changes, most recently in the joint EAA/AOPA third-class medical certificate exemption request in March 2012. The FAA has yet to move on the request, despite more than 16,000 supportive comments to the docket during the public comment period.