AOPA launches new effort to gain driver's license medical for recreational pilots

January 16, 2003

AOPA today hand-delivered to the FAA a request for an exemption that would permit AOPA members exercising student or recreational pilot privileges to use a valid driver's license in lieu of an FAA medical certificate. The exemption would be valid for two years, and during that period AOPA and the FAA would collect new data to validate previous AOPA studies showing that a "driver's license medical" would not affect safety.

"AOPA has been working since 1985 to reduce the medical requirements for pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Our ultimate goal is still no medical certificate for recreational pilots. This exemption would be an interim step toward that goal. And AOPA has the resources to collect and analyze an irrefutable mountain of data to prove that a driver's license medical is the right thing to do."

Previous AOPA and Air Safety Foundation statistical analysis have shown that only about one third of one percent (0.3 percent) of GA accidents involved pilot incapacitation that might have been predicted by a medical certificate examination.

Last July, AOPA petitioned the FAA for a rulemaking change that would have permanently permitted a driver's license medical for recreational pilots. The FAA denied the petition, not because it disagreed with the request, but because the concept was "premature" while the agency continued work on the sport pilot rulemaking.

The latest AOPA action seeks a two-year exemption (rather than a rule change) to establish a medical research baseline for the FAA to consider in future rulemaking. Under this exemption, AOPA members wanting to fly without a medical certificate would be required to provide information to the association and to electronically report flight activity on a regular basis.

AOPA has the technical and medical resources and expertise for managing this important research project. The association has one of the largest and most sophisticated databases outside of government with the necessary controls to strictly maintain data security and confidentiality.

AOPA's medical certification specialists review more than 20,000 cases a year. The staff works closely with the FAA on individual members' certification issues.

The association's Board of Aviation Medical Advisors includes a former chief of the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, former and current presidents of the Civil Aviation Medical Association, civil and military chief flight surgeons, senior aviation medical examiners, and specialists in various medical fields.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has set the standard for general aviation safety research and education for more than 50 years. The foundation also maintains a sophisticated GA accident database.

"AOPA is absolutely convinced that a driver's license can safely be used to set a minimum medical safety standard for student and recreational pilots," said Boyer. "This study would prove it, once and for all."

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