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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

From Flying Magazine

Three Big Changes in Pilot Medical and What they Mean to You

Congress shows the FAA how progress gets done.
By Robert Goyer / Published: Mar 03, 2015
As you've no doubt read by now, both houses of Congress in a welcome and unusual bipartisan effort have gotten behind a pair of bills that would eliminate the outdated pilot third class medical certificate. The identical bills, nicknamed the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2, are the result of efforts of a few longtime friends of general aviation, Senators James Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) and Joe Manchin (D, West Virginia) and Representatives Dan Lipinski (D, Illinois) and Sam Graves (R, Missouri). 
Under the rule the third class medical certificate would get the boot, replaced by a more sensible self-certification process resembling that used successfully by Sport Pilots for several years now. 
With Congress regularly getting a lot of heat, much of it deserved, for engaging in partisan battles that result in legislative gridlock, these bills stand as a testament to what the legislature can do when they set their collective minds to a worthy task. 
As I've written about before, the FAA has been considering changes to the third class medical certificate for more than a year now, and it has become clear that the agency has decided to slow-track the proposal. The twin bills in Congress send a clear message to the FAA: General aviation needs this change and it needs it now. The bills, once enacted, contain a provision that would mandate they go into effect even if the FAA fails to act on them in a timely fashion (180 days). It's a critical clause; inaction on the agency's part would have been a near certainty otherwise. 
Change One: Goodbye Class Three Medical (for many of us)
The new rules will immediately benefit a huge number of pilots, who can avoid the expensive, restrictive and punitive process of going through the FAA's current medieval maze. That labyrinth of conditions and special issuances did almost nothing to protect pilots or their passengers while entrenching the FAA in a position of playing doctor to unwilling patients who never needed their services in the first place. That system won't go away for commercial pilots or those of us who fly large aircraft, but more than a hundred thousand pilots (by our non-scientific estimation) will be able to fly free of the FAA's medical harassment. 
Changes Two and Three: Bigger Faster Airplanes and IFR 
Private pilots flying under the new rules will enjoy a wealth of privileges denied private aviators under the FAA's moribund proposal on the subject. Pilots will be able to fly real personal transportation flights both VFR and IFR, flying airplanes 6,000-pounds and less at speeds up to 250 knots while carrying as many as five passengers. 
As you know Flying led the charge to eliminate the limitation to VFR-only flying under the new medical standard, and we are gratified that our friends in Congress and in a number of pilot membership organizations listened to us. The new rules make sense, give pilots meaningful privileges and will result in an equivalent level of safety. 
Those are great goals to hit. The FAA should take notice of how it's done.


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