Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013


For years I have been writing and speaking on the fact that 3rd class medicals should be abolished in their entirety. I feel that the 3rd class medical is a waste of time and money. Basically one is tested for diabetes, hearing, sight, blood pressure and a minimum heart exam with a stethoscope. As pilots we have to do this every 2 years to be able to continue with our flying privilege.

My objections to 3rd class medicals are numerous, and I will include BFR’s in this classification. I do think at a certain age that BFR’s should be required to fly, and I also think they should be required to drive a car. There are too many dangerous people on the road that should not be driving. The reasoning for a 3rd class medical is that you can not do damage to others or your passengers if you have a medical. I feel it should be up to the pilot to decide if they are able to fly on any given day for noncommercial purposes..

Right now ballon, glider, sport and LSA pilots can self certify if they are able to fly for noncommercial purposes. AOPA and the EAA petitioned the FAA to eliminate the 3rd class medical for those who flew a 4 seat airplane with one passenger, 180hp or less, fixed gear, no IFR and no night flight. At this time Randy Babbitt was the FAA Administrator and proactive for this going through. Due to some unfortunate circumstances Randy was forced to resign his position, and that was the end of any consideration for relaxing the 3rd class medical rules....until now.

AOPA has done an excellent job in supporting those in Congress who support general aviation (GA). The house GA caucus has become a numerous body with support for GA. Just recently this body introduced legislation to relax certification of airplanes and avionics. The bill was passed by the House, Senate and signed by the President in a most expedient manner unheard of in these days for our Government.

The House caucus on Aviation was not happy that the FAA blew off the 3rd class medical situation as proposed by AOPA. There was no progress with the FAA, and they were sitting on their behinds on this issue. AOPA continued to work with the caucus and to everyones surprise the caucus has introduced a bill in the House to radically reform the 3rd class medical rules. As it stands now the bill states that any non commercial airplane that has 6 seats with 5 passengers aboard, weighs less than 6000 pounds, flies at 14,000 feet or less and flies only VFR (day and night) will not require a 3rd class medical for the pilot. This is dramatically more than what AOPA originally requested. One caveat to this bill is that it penalizes those who fly into the coastal areas of the west coast. There is usually a 2000 foot marine layer, in the summer time, that one has to fly through to land at these airports. Therefore you will have to be IFR and have a 3rd class medical to do this. The other problem could be in busy airspace that is controlled, TRACON might not approve you to fly through Class Bravo. Being that over 80% of pilots are VFR only this is a great start.

That being said this is an amazing step forward for GA and will extend the careers of many aviators. I hope this bill will clear the House and Senate as quick as the revitalization bill did. Then the question is will the President, who is not a fan of GA, sign the bill. Only time will tell.