General Aviation Pilot Protection Act Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the differences between this bill and the AOPA/EAA Petition?
  2. Does the bill have any limitations?
  3. Why exclude IFR operations?
  4. What is the timeline?
  5. What if my medical has been denied/revoked?
  6. Should I buy/sell based on this news?
  7. Which member of Congress do I contact? When?

What are the differences between this bill and the AOPA/EAA Petition?

  • On Dec. 11, 2013, The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (GAPPA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the beginning of a long process that may take a number of possible directions. Through the process, the bill language may change. The AOPA/Experimental Aircraft Association medical exemption petition includes operational parameters which AOPA and EAA believed would give the petition the best chance of being accepted by FAA; yet the agency has given no response or timeline for a decision. The GAPPA bill goes well beyond the petition and was drafted by Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.). The bill will direct the FAA to revise regulations to allow pilots to fly certain aircraft without regard to any medical certification. The bill language would apply to aircraft up to 6,000 pounds instead of limited to 180 horsepower, as in the AOPA/EAA medical petition; not only VFR day but also VFR night flying; up to five passengers instead of one; and a maximum altitude of 14,000 feet msl rather than 10,000 feet msl.

Does the bill have any limitations?

  • A congressional office makes many considerations when writing and introducing legislation. Their goal was to build a bill that has the best chance at passage and won’t get hung up because of one specific term or condition. The bill language goes much further than AOPA/EAA petition but does contain limitations—aircraft up to 6,000 pounds, VFR day and night flying, up to five passengers, and a maximum altitude of 14,000 feet msl. You will notice in the bill language that it calls for the FAA to report back to Congress about the results of implementing this standard: “Not later than five years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall submit to Congress a report that describes the impact that the regulations issued or revised under section 2 have had, including statistics with respect to changes in small aircraft activity and safety incidents.” At that time, AOPA anticipates that the data will prove that GA pilots can operate safely using a driver’s license medical. AOPA’s long-term goal goes well beyond VFR, but this is a first step—and a big one.

Why exclude IFR operations?

  • Including IFR in this first bill might have been a bridge too far, and no one wanted to risk its failure for one single provision. While AOPA agrees that there is no safety case against including IFR, everybody wants to get a first step taken on expanding the driver’s license medical. Rep. Todd Rokita, a pilot and AOPA member, addresses the IFR issue in a video interview with Tom Haines. He speaks directly about how the decision was made to not include IFR in this first bill because they foresaw some issues other stakeholders might have had with that particular provision. He also addresses how they intend to use this bill as a “springboard.” Working closely with AOPA, Rokita and Graves worked hard to balance all the issues to craft a bill that they believe can be passed by Congress, and AOPA is confident that the data will show over a short period of time that we are in a strong position to expand the provisions.

What is the timeline?

  • In the current bill language, the FAA would be required to address the pertinent medical certification rules no later than 180 days from the effective date of the law. However, there are many steps between the introduction of a bill and it being signed into law. We cannot estimate a timeline since the bill enters into a fluid process from this point forward. We will keep AOPA members updated on any new developments. This bill has only been through the first step in the legislative process. After a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee with jurisdiction for deliberation. If the bill is approved by the committee, it can then be considered for a vote on the House floor. Even if the House passes the bill, it is then referred to the Senate where the process starts again. Sometimes a similar bill will be introduced in the Senate before the House has acted, but even in this case, that Senate bill will still go through the same process. Along the way, the bill may be attached to another piece of legislation to help it move along. We cannot estimate a timeline as Congress’ priorities are out of any one association’s control. However, if there is not a final bill that is signed into law by the end of 2014, the whole process will have to start over in 2015 under a new Congress as a result of the 2014 elections.

What if my medical has been denied/revoked?

  • The bill, as it is drafted, does not stipulate anything regarding status of previous medical applications or certificates. AOPA cannot speculate on how the legislation will develop from this point forward, but our goal is to keep it as nonrestrictive as possible, allowing the most pilots to benefit.

Should I buy/sell based on this news?

  • Your decision to buy or sell anything ought to be based upon your situation and the facts that are known today. We cannot reliably speculate on a final outcome.

Which member of Congress do I contact? When?

  • The U.S. House of Representatives will be out of session until January 2014, meaning the usual legislative process will be paused while members of Congress return to their home districts. In the New Year, when the House returns for session in January, AOPA will make an announcement when it will be beneficial for AOPA members to reach out directly to their representatives. In the meantime, if you have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with a member of Congress or his or her staff, you may choose to bring this up to make the person aware of the situation and state that you may be contacting them in the future. Once passed, the bill will keep a lot of pilots flying and return many more to the air. As always, AOPA will keep you informed of any new developments. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact AOPA.