3rd Class Medical Exemption

On March 20, 2012, AOPA and EAA submitted a request to the FAA that would offer pilots the option of obtaining a 3rd class FAA medical or instead, become educated on medical self-assessment and fly recreationally using their driver's license as the baseline of health.

The exemption would be allowed for use in certain sized aircraft and particular types of operations: for example, a single-engine aircraft with 180 horsepower or less, four seats or fewer, and fixed gear, with operations limited to day VFR flight with one passenger, and not for hire or in furtherance of a business. Through this exemption, any pilot holding a student, recreational, private, commercial, or ATP certificate would have the option of operating under this exemption when flying recreationally.

With the implementation of the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Rule, the FAA already uses the driver’s license as a basic form of establishing medical fitness.  As expected, the use of the driver's license medical for sport pilots has not negatively impacted safety.

In fact, an AOPA Air Safety Institute study of light sport aircraft accidents from 2004 – 2011 showed there were NO accidents attributable to pilot medical deficiency. Granting this petition would provide an equivalent level of safety and, in practice, an even greater level of safety than we have today. That’s because it requires initial and recurrent education for pilots on aeromedical factors, a requirement that does not exist today. 

More than 70 percent of AOPA and EAA members expressed a strong interest in this exemption and as a result, there was an extraordinary outpouring of responses to the FAA docket.  Over 16,000 comments were filed in support of the petition.  We thank our incredible community for coming together and sending a clear message to the FAA! 

The comment period closed in September 2012 and at this time, the FAA has not told us when we might expect a final decision.  And because this is a petition, there is no deadline. We continue to meet with FAA officials regularly and encourage a decision quickly. Needless to say, we are disappointed that the FAA has not yet taken action.

During the recent debate over the series of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, we’ve taken the opportunity to remind the FAA that enacting our petition would allow for substantial economic savings.  We conservatively estimate that the federal government could save over $11 million in a 10 year period.

Conservative estimates show that it would also save pilots more than $241 million over 10 years.  These are the kinds of common-sense exemptions that must be allowed in order to make flying more affordable for our members.  

Adopting this petition is a win-win for the general aviation community and the federal government. It will result in substantial savings, reduce bureaucracy and eliminate an unnecessary burden.