There is only a little time left to comment on a petition for exemption of the third-class medical requirement for pilots flying recreationally. The exemption petition was submitted to the FAA by the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the comment period closes on July 2. As of June 25, there were more than 3,300 comments, but the more comments received, the more the FAA might pay attention.
Why is this important for business aviation?
Actually, this exemption is important for the entire aerospace industry. We’ve seen over and over in countries that don’t support the concept of allowing people to fly freely when they want, wherever they want, that these countries’ aerospace industries are hobbled. Their airliners are flown by expatriate pilots, their airports and airspace are highly restrictive, and what little business aviation they allow is subject to endless delays, onerous permitting requirements and airliner-style treatment. A robust population of recreational pilots is the foundation of a strong aerospace industry. There is no getting around that.
So, if you care about the future of business aviation, about having a source of pilots who want to work their way up to flying with you, mechanics who want to service your aircraft and all the people who work hard to keep our aerospace industry strong, this exemption is important.
To comment on the exemption, go to www.regulations.gov and put Docket No. FAA-2012-0350 in the search box. It takes only a few minutes, and hopefully your voice will be heard.
All that the exemption would do is allow pilots to fly recreationally without having to obtain a third-class medical certificate. According to EAA, “The petition for exemption asks that pilots be able to fly fixed-gear, single-engine airplanes of 180 hp or less carrying no more than one passenger in day VFR using a valid driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification. The exemption also would create an online aeromedical training course that each pilot must study. An online exam will test your retention of the course material.” There are other restrictions, including no night flying, no aircraft with more than four seats, no IFR and no flying in furtherance of a business. Pilots flying to Canada would still have to have at least a third-class medical certificate.
EAA and AOPA believe that the record of the light sport aircraft industry, which doesn’t require pilots to hold an FAA medical certificate, supports this petition. According to EAA, “With the implementation of the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Rule, the FAA recognized the driver’s license as a basic form of establishing medical fitness. The use of the driver’s license medical for sport pilots has not negatively impacted safety. There have been no accidents in this community related to medical deficiency.”
The FAA has refused all efforts by EAA and AOPA to eliminate the third-class medical certificate requirement, and those associations feel that this exemption holds promise because it mandates an education component to ensure that pilots keep up to date on medical issues. The prospect of pilots crashing because of medical deficiencies is remote.
This exemption simply makes sense. It would remove an obstacle that keeps many pilots from flying and spending money on aviation and would make available to a reinvigorated pilot population roughly 100,000 airplanes that could be flown recreationally in the U.S.