More time for medical exemption comments sought

July 5, 2012

A move that has the potential to impact pilots on a personal level and the general aviation industry as a whole deserves more than a 20-day window for the community to comment.

AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association are seeking a 70-day extension to the comment period for the medical exemption request that would allow pilots to complete an online medical awareness course, do a self-assessment before every flight, and use their driver’s license in lieu of a third class medical to fly some of the most popular aircraft on the market during day-VFR conditions. The comment period for the medical exemption petition officially ended July 2, and the FAA has not yet granted the request for addition time to comment.

The request for the medical exemption would make an estimated 86,000 to 114,000 familiar (and many pilots’ favorite) piston single-engine aircraft with 180 horsepower or less—including many Cessnas and Pipers, tailwheels and nosewheels alike—available for flight if the pilots complete the online course, self-assess their fitness level, and use their driver’s license. The aircraft must have fixed landing gear and four seats or fewer, and pilots may not carry more than one passenger at a time, among other requirements.

This move, AOPA asserts, would allow pilots who stopped flying because of the expense, hassle, or fear associated with getting a medical, to get back in the air, fire up those underutilized aircraft, and help boost GA activity. It also could improve safety, according to the association, because pilots would be flying familiar aircraft, in some cases the type of aircraft in which they completed much of their flight training. The added educational component of the online course would delve deeper into aeromedical factors than current FAA materials, boosting pilots’ knowledge and enabling them to make more informed go/no-go decision based on fitness for flight.

“This has the potential to increase GA activity and the pilot population, as well as the GA community’s morale,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “Pilots are passionate about this issue, as is evidenced by the more than 14,000 who have commented already. We want everyone’s voice to be heard, and that’s why we are requesting 70 more days to comment.”

The extra days would bring the total comment period to 90 days. Pilots will have to opportunity to hear more about the proposal during seminars at EAA AirVenture; members can submit their comments at the AOPA Tent throughout the show. The exemption request is still on the Regulations.gov website, and the capability to submit comments is still active even though the deadline was July 2. As long as the online docket continues to make the comment functionality available, AOPA encourages pilots to submit their comments. Review the AOPA/EAA Guide to the Medical Petition, or consult the  frequently asked questions to learn more about the exemption request. Identify Docket FAA-2012-0350 in your comments.