How to be heard: Tips for medical petition comments

March 29, 2012

If reducing the burden of a third-class medical certificate could benefit you, now is the time to speak up.

The FAA has posted a petition for exemption recently filed by AOPA and EAA that if granted would allow pilots to use recurrent education in lieu of a medical certificate for many common general aviation recreational operations. Comments in support of the petition can help strengthen its chances of acceptance by the FAA.

If accepted, the petition for exemption would allow pilots to use knowledge they gain from a free, online course in place of a third class medical in order to fly under day VFR 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.

AOPA and EAA have provided guidance for pilots filing comments in support of the petition, including some suggestions for topics to cover. What makes an effective comment? Think back to high school English class: Follow instructions, be specific, and support your argument with data.

You may describe yourself as a pilot, and how you personally assess your fitness for flight between aviation medical exams. Self-assessment, using a driver’s license as a baseline for health, has been successful for glider, balloon, and sport pilots; and the petition for exemption would give pilots additional tools to evaluate their medical fitness. It would create a free, online medical safety educational course, developed by the AOPA Foundation’s Air Safety Institute, to educate pilots on medical considerations beyond basic flight physiology.

Have you taken online courses, attended seminars, or read articles to expand your aviation knowledge and become a safer pilot? Pilots could also explain how participating in continuing education such as the proposed online course increases safety.

Comments also might discuss how reducing the burden of the third class medical for pilots flying recreationally could help keep more people flying—and how increased aviation activity benefits all of GA and stimulates the economy.

When the associations announced plans to file the petition for exemption, members shared how the ability to continue flying familiar aircraft under daytime VFR without regularly renewing their medical certificate would save time and money, keep more people flying, or give them the confidence to invest in aviation products; the comment period allows pilots to share those thoughts directly with the FAA. Comments may be submitted online; they must be in English and contain the docket number, FAA-2012-0350, and your name and mailing address.