This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The FAA, working rapidly to address an array of concerns concerning meeting a number of requirements and deadlines during the Covid-19 crisis, is releasing an exemption that extends the duration of expiring medicals until June 30 for pilots who conduct Part 135 operations outside the U.S. The exemption, issued at the request of the National Air Transportation Association, comes as the agency also is releasing a broader policy statement that it will not issue enforcement for lapsed medicals of persons serving as a “required pilot flight crewmember" between now and June 30. That statement is to be published in the Federal Register on April 1. The agency also has issued a series of exemptions pertaining to Part 135 training requirements.
As for the Part 135 international operations exemption, an employer must submit a letter of intent listing who will be exercising the exemption. “This list is necessary to ensure the FAA knows which individuals are exercising the relief granted in the exemption, to conduct appropriate oversight of such individuals, to foster accountability of those covered by the exemption, and to prevent nonauthorized individuals from exercising the privileges granted through the exemption,” the agency said.
The FAA is opting for an exemption in these cases, even though the broader policy statement has been released, because foreign states might take different approaches to regulation and the FAA’s legal interpretation might not be enough for those operations.
At the same time, the agency recognized, “The ability of Part 119 certificate holders operating under Part 135 to fly internationally is vital to the U.S. supply chain. There are flights that move goods within the United States that must traverse international airspace (e.g., flights to Alaska and Puerto Rico)…The stability of the U.S. transportation system is particularly critical at this time because of the increased demand for food and medical supplies prompted by the Covid-19 public health emergency.”
The exemption strengthens the basis for pilots traveling abroad. Some concerns have arisen about whether insurance companies will honor the expired but not enforced medicals under the policy statement issued separately from the exemption.
Matt Drummelsmith, president of Aviation Specialty Insurance, said his company has already begun to see the first cases of this. “The general consensus seems to be: provided the FAA considers the medical valid, then we will agree to the same." Drummelsmith added other insurers appear to be falling in line with the FAA. “If the FAA deems it valid, so too will the carriers.”
However, Helicopter Association International is continuing to advise members to renew their medicals as soon as they are able to and to discuss their situations with their individual insurers.