News from AOPA: 3rd Class Medical

This is a reply received from an email I sent to president of AOPA Mark Baker.
Dear Mr. Hafer,
Thank you for your email.  Mark is out of the office at the moment so he asked that I respond to your inquiry.  First, let me say that the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 is AOPA’s number one legislative priority and we continue to work with the sponsors of the bill daily to see that it continues to move forward.  We are now closer than we’ve ever been before to seeing this legislation become law.  We update members regularly through our electronic media as well as our print publications.  Below is one of the latest articles found on our website

 Support for medical reform continues to grow:

This article was reprinted from the email an article within; sent to me that was printed in AOPA publications. We want to thank AOPA and Elizabeth Tennyson and do not want either to feel we are trying to take their credit. Credit is AOPA entirely…

By Elizabeth A Tennyson

Efforts to move medical reform legislation through Congress continue as support for the measure, known as the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, continues to grow in the House and Senate.

The most recent lawmakers to join the growing list of Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 cosponsors are Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), who became the 146th cosponsor in the House on Oct. 20, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R- N.H.), who chairs the Senate Aviation Subcommittee and became the sixty-eighth Senate cosponsor on Oct. 21.

“That means we have fully one-third of the House of Representatives signed on as cosponsors, plus a supermajority in the Senate,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “While there are no guarantees, that’s a strong showing of bipartisan support for third class medical reform.”

AOPA leaders have reiterated their commitment to keep pushing for medical reform until pilots get much-needed relief, and they recognize that pilots are impatient to see the bill passed.

“We are working this issue every single day to get the very best deal we can for pilots, and we’re doing everything in our power to get it done as quickly as possible. We’re closer than ever before and we’re hopeful that we’ll see meaningful movement on this legislation before the end of the year,” said Coon.

Since the legislation was first introduced in February, some compromise changes have been made to the bill in order to win the support needed to keep the legislation alive. Although AOPA and others fought hard to eliminate the need for visits to an aviation medical examiner altogether, current language in the bill would allow most pilots, including many of those requiring a special issuance medical, to visit an AME just once in their flying careers.

“It’s not a driver’s license standard like we have in sport pilot but under the current proposal the majority of general aviation pilots would, at most, only need to see an AME one time. In fact, the 10-year reach-back provision is estimated to capture nearly 300,000 pilots who will never have to see an AME again,” said Coon. “Private pilots who have been diagnosed with mental or neurological conditions, or who have had a heart attack or open heart surgery, would have to go through the special issuance process one time.

“Pilots self-assess their fitness before every flight, and we want to foster the pilot-physician relationship and get government bureaucracy out of the way. Relying on a pilot-physician relationship along with only having one FAA required medical exam over the course of a flying career will ensure a healthier and safer general aviation community and it will ultimately save the aviation community hundreds of millions of dollars.”

To help pilots understand the current status of the legislation, AOPA and EAA have joined together to answer some of their members’ most common questions about third class medical reform.


September 30, 2015

By Elizabeth A Tennyson

A recent announcement by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the author of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, about modifications to the bill’s language have raised plenty of questions among members of AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association.

We’ll be up front with you: AOPA and EAA fully support the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, including these modifications. For more than 25 years, our two organizations have been pushing for aeromedical reform. Our most recent exemption request was made in 2012 and was much less expansive than the bill as it now stands, but it did not gain the traction needed for approval. We are farther along the road to substantive aeromedical reform than at any time in history.

We’ve also been digging after answers on some of your most common questions.

Why the changes in the bill’s language?

Simply put, the original language of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 did not have enough support in the Senate, despite your thousands of contacts with your senators. It was not going to pass or move forward in its original form. Inhofe knows the workings of the Senate extremely well, so he looked for a way to get support to move meaningful reform forward. They went directly after the objections voiced by fellow senators, and in doing so built bipartisan support from 67 senators across the entire political spectrum.

What if I will only support the original language in the bill?

Again, we’re going to be frank here. Accepting only the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 language would mean failure of the entire bill. We would end up with nothing, the same way previous efforts for meaningful aeromedical reform have ended.

Will this affect me if I still want to fly as a sport pilot?

No. This bill does not change any provision of the sport pilot rule. You may still fly light sport aircraft with at least a sport pilot certificate and a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third class medical certificate.

Isn’t the requirement to have had a medical certificate within the past 10 years only a move to a 10-year renewal of a medical?

No. If you are a private pilot and have a valid medical certificate (regular or special issuance) within 10 years from the date when the bill is signed into law, you may never have to visit an AME again. You will simply have to take an online medical education course every two years, and visit your personal physician once every four years and note that visit in your logbook. No requirement will exist to report the outcome of the visit to the FAA.

Even though I have held a special issuance within the past 10 years, I understand that I may have to get another if I have been diagnosed with certain conditions. What are those conditions?

Those conditions are described in the federal aviation regulations and are limited to an established medical history of the following:

  • Cardiovascular: myocardial infarction (heart attack); coronary heart disease that has been treated by open heart surgery, cardiac valve replacement; and heart replacement.
  • Neurological: epilepsy; a transient loss of control of the nervous system; and disturbances of consciousness without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause.
  • Psychological: personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts; manifested or may reasonably expected to manifest delusions, hallucinations, grossly bizarre or disorganized behavior, or other commonly accepted symptoms of psychosis; severe bipolar disorder; and substance dependence within the previous two years as defined in FAR 67.307(4).The online aeromedical course, taken once every two years, would be a requirement to keep your flying privileges. It would be free of charge to all pilots, whether or not they are AOPA or EAA members. We believe education is more effective than regulation, and this is the best way to get the important health information to everyone. It also would include information on how over-the-counter medications can affect our fitness for flying. The course will be run and maintained through the GA community’s communications channels, such as the AOPA Air Safety Institute. The FAA would only approve the content of the online course. If we as a flying community fail to show that we can be responsible for educating ourselves, more regulation will be put upon us. We’re pleased that you feel fine, but even if you weren’t a pilot, avoiding the doctor’s office isn’t the way to assure that you’re in good health. Most people see their personal physician for a physical every year or two regardless. This legislation eliminates the cost, paperwork, and extra hassle of regularly seeing a different doctor just to fly. It also eliminates many of the burdens placed on private pilots just because they’re pilots.Yes! One of the biggest problems with the current special issuance process is that it’s a continual renewal, with all the cost, paperwork, and hassle associated with it each time. Under the bill’s language, you receive the third class medical special issuance once and you’re good to go, with only future visits to your personal physician at least every 48 months. In addition, the bill requires the FAA to streamline its special issuance process, so even that one time might not be as much of a burden in the future. Whoever told you this is wrong. The FAA issues medical certificates to the vast majority—more than 98 percent, in fact—of people who complete the medical certification process. That includes those who are seeking a special issuance medical. And, under the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, you will only need to complete the special issuance process once.Inhofe heard clearly from fellow senators that in order to support the bill, they needed one initial medical approval by the FAA to ensure that a new pilot was in sufficiently good health to fly. That’s a one-time approval, compared to the biennial medical exam— sometimes more if certain conditions are involved—that is now required. That’s a pretty substantial step forward for everyone.Insurance companies have not yet addressed how they will handle medical reforms and are unlikely to do so until medical reform becomes law. Our 10 years of experience with the sport pilot regulations and other pilots flying sport pilot aircraft without a medical certificate showed little or no impact on insurance availability or rates. Since each company uses slightly different language regarding medical requirements, the best thing to do is to contact your insurance broker or company and ask how they will handle anticipated reforms. History indicates that compliance with the applicable regulations is typically all that is required by insurance companies, and the new regulations would not require an additional medical certificate for many pilots in the future. Even with all the progress, there’s still work to do. Few things move forward quickly in Congress. Inhofe would love to get more senators on board as co-sponsors—so, if your senator is on the list of those still not signed on, continue to contact them. Inhofe is also working to get the bill to the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the House, where nearly 150 representatives are co-signers of the original parallel Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. We are seeking every potential avenue for progress in both houses of Congress.Elizabeth A Tennyson | Senior Director of Communications, AOPA
  • AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
  • Predicting the pace of legislation is a fool’s game, but we’ll say it again: This needed reform is farther along now than ever before and we are working daily to get this done as soon as possible. It has support of GA groups, aeromedical groups, and several large airline pilot groups. Everybody would love it to move faster, but discouragement and doubt do not help. Let’s push this across the finish line!
  • So, where do we go next? What’s the timeline?
  • Will I be able to get insurance if I fly under the rules set out in the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2?
  • Doesn’t this just help old pilots? What about new private pilots who can’t get a third class medical?
  • I’ve heard that the FAA denies most special issuance medical requests, so I’m reluctant to even try.
  • Will this help me if I need a special issuance?
  • I feel fine. Why do I have to go to a doctor every four years to prove it?
  • What is this online aeromedical course and who will administer it?
  • AOPA Medical info