Australia offers new medical option for private flying

June 27, 2012

Pilots flying many aircraft privately can obtain their medical certificate from any general practitioner under a new system announced in Australia.

The certification system, announced in the June newsletter of the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, allows pilots to avoid visits to a designated aviation medical examiner—and the $75 processing fee for aviation medicals—by opting for more frequent but less burdensome visits to a family doctor. The medical standards for the new “drivers licence (DL) medical certificate (aviation)” are based on the Austroads Inc. unconditional motor vehicle driver’s license, with additional aviation-specific requirements.

Pilots with the new certification will be restricted to flying single-piston-engine aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight less than 1,500 kg (3,307 pounds). “Pilots must operate at less than 10,000 feet above sea level in visual meteorological conditions, with only one informed and consenting passenger on board,” CASA Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick wrote. Participating pilots will have access to controlled airspace.

In addition to the normal motor vehicles standards, the new medical requirements will cover areas such as cancer, heart failure, head injuries, epilepsy, and musculoskeletal disorders.

A pilot who receives his or her “drivers licence medical certificate (aviation)” from a general practitioner must e-register it on the CASA website and agree to be bound by these conditions and limitations. Pilots younger than 65 years old must renew and re-register their certificate every two years, and those older than 65 must do so every 12 months, McCormick wrote. Medical certificates for private pilots in Australia are generally valid for four years for applicants younger than 40 years of age, and in other cases for two years; pilots must visit a designated aviation medical examiner and pay administrative fees to obtain these certificates.

In the United States, AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association have launched an effort to reduce the burden of the third class medical by allowing pilots to complete a medical awareness online course, assess their fitness for flight, and use a driver's license in lieu of a third class medical for certain flights. Both associations have petitioned the FAA for relief from third-class medical requirements for decades; an early effort resulted in a 1985 notice of proposed rulemaking that sought comment on alternative ways of assessing an individual’s medical fitness for flight, such as using a driver’s license that shows the status of that person’s vision or a family doctor’s testament to basic health. Pilots can submit comments on the associations’ current request until July 2.