Pilots speak out on medical petition at Sun 'n Fun

April 4, 2012

Thousands of pilots who streamed through the AOPA Tent at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Fla., logged support for an effort by AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association to reduce the burden of the third class medical.

Attendees who entered the daily drawing at the tent had an opportunity to express their views on the associations’ petition for an exemption to allow pilots to use recurrent education in lieu of a medical certificate for many common general aviation recreational operations; of more than 4,000 responses, 97 percent expressed support for the exemption. AOPA and EAA are now urging pilots to share those thoughts formally with the FAA by filing comments on the petition.

The petition for exemption would allow pilots to continue to fly many common general aviation aircraft recreationally without a medical certificate if they opt to participate in a recurrent online education program that would teach them how to self-assess their fitness to fly. Participants would be restricted to day VFR operations in a single-engine aircraft with 180 horsepower or less, four seats or fewer, fixed gear, and a maximum of one passenger, among other criteria.

“I believe this would extend flying for a LOT of safe pilots that fly recreationally and really like the proposal,” wrote one attendee. “I fully support it.”

AOPA and EAA are confident that the educational component of the exemption, which would better educate pilots to assess their health before each flight, would maintain or increase general aviation safety, a sentiment echoed by one visitor at the tent: “I believe that providing pilots information about being vigilant about their health and training them to be aware of improving health will be a more effective strategy in eliminating any problems associated with medical conditions.”

Others focused on how keeping pilots active would benefit the health of the GA industry, calling the proposal, as one attendee said, “A great idea that could be the salvation of General Aviation (not to mention creating jobs!)”

Pilots now have a chance to voice their opinions to the FAA: Comments in support of the petition may be submitted online. As of April 3, more than 200 submissions have been filed, overwhelmingly in support of the petition.

Dozens of Sun ‘n Fun visitors attended an AOPA/EAA forum on the exemption request, and those who missed it can find out more about the effort and get tips about filing comments on AOPA Online.