June 3, 2008
Following a two-day mission by AOPA medical certification specialists, hundreds of pilots received FAA notification that their applications for special issuance medical certificates have been approved. The AOPA specialists worked directly with the FAA's Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City to reduce the backlog of long-pending applications, some of which had been "misplaced" for nearly a year.
The Oklahoma City mission was mounted in response to more than 550 complaints from AOPA members whose special issuance applications had been in various stages of review for months without resolution.
"Our team found that, while a majority of the cases were serious enough to require complete review by the FAA, many were routine cases that could have been resolved by the aviation medical examiners themselves in consultation with FAA regional flight surgeons," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification.
The AOPA mission was able to clear out almost 90 percent of the older cases. Of the 550 pending case, 365 were favorably reviewed and certificates were issued, 70 applications were denied, and 50 required additional information before the review could be completed. The remainder had already been reviewed, but neither the FAA nor the members had informed AOPA.
AOPA Medical Certification specialists JoAnn Wilson and Ruby Zecher, both longtime members of the AOPA professional staff, conducted the Oklahoma City mission.
In an e-mail to Wilson, one grateful member said, "Thanks for all your help in getting my medical and sticking through this mess with me. I got the medical today at 3:15 p.m. and soloed at 5:15 p.m.... Will I sleep well tonight for a change! You are a real treasure."
Another member wrote AOPA President Phil Boyer, "Because of her persistence, thorough knowledge of the FARs, and fighting for 'what is right,' your Ruby Zecher in the Medical Certification Department pressed the FAA into renewing my medical certificate...a battle that has been all uphill for the past twelve weeks.... Her fighting spirit and follow-through with the FAA, both by telephone and then in person in Oklahoma City, are the only reasons I am still a current and certificated pilot today."
AOPA has published the Pilots' Guide to Medical Certification along with some 30 "medical subject reports" listing FAA certification guidelines on numerous medical conditions. The booklet and information sheets are available in the members-only section of AOPA Online.
AOPA members may contact the medical certification department through AOPA's toll-free Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672).
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