Pilots re-energized over driver’s license medical bill

December 13, 2013

Since Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act on Dec. 11, the pilot community has been abuzz with the possibilities of the bill that would allow pilots to use a driver’s license as a medical certificate for noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats, as long as they carry five or fewer passengers, fly below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots.

Pilots began reacting immediately as they read the news from AOPA, thanking Rokita and Graves and pledging to take any action needed to help get this measure through Congress. In January, AOPA will provide talking points and ask members to contact their representatives and urge them to support the bill, HR 3708.

“Great news and good work AOPA and Congress,” AOPA member 00621040 said in comments on the article. “Lets all do whatever is necessary to show our support for this legislation and push as hard as we can for it's passage. We need all of the aviation community to join together to save our freedom to fly from the path to extinction it's been on. Now if we can get this passed, work to eliminate even more restrictions, and then seriously work on liability reform for the manufacturers.... General Aviation might actually become a mega growth industry again!”

Another commenter, HOLMESBJCK, also pointed out the positive impact of recent measures coming out of Congress: “In concert with the new Part 23 aircraft airworthiness regulation supported by AOPA and signed by the President recently, this pilot regulation legislation holds promise to further lower the barriers to entry for participation in aviation. Long time coming!”

Others took the news more personally as a hope to ending some of the red tape they endure to take to the skies. Dean Srygley said, “Thank goodness for these congressmen and their assist in this vital matter. I have to spend 4 months/year (minimum) to occasionally 6+ months/year maximum as I navigate multiple doctor and treadmill schedules then await FAA approvals. Needless to say, my cardiologist thinks I am "cured" (technically) from my stents event of 2003 yet every year I must renew my Class III in the above fashion and mostly remained grounded until I have been ‘approved’  by the FAA. I pray these congressman succeed on this critical legislation which has taken an unknown hit on general aviation on way too many financial, physical and manufacturing levels.”

AOPA members will be able to help Congress support this legislation by contacting their representatives when Congress is back in session in January.

“What we need now from AOPA is short talking point bullets for our letters to congress. Please post these as soon as you can. We can all use our own words but we need consistent talking points for those letters please!!!!” said JFEET28.

AOPA will be posting talking points and providing links to make it easy to contact your representative. The association has asked members to wait until January when AOPA sends out an action alert before contacting their member of Congress.

While the overwhelming majority of AOPA members expressed emphatic support for the bill, calling it a “common sense” move that “should have happened a lot time ago,” some expressed a tinge of disappointment that the bill didn’t extend to IFR operations.

Rokita addressed those concerns in an AOPA Live interview with AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines on Dec. 12. He said the VFR-only limit, as well as other provisions on aircraft weight and altitude restriction, was intended to head off concerns of stakeholders before introducing the bill.

“Let’s take this first step and get it done,” Rokita said.

Rep. Todd Rokita on the GA Pilot Protection Act

Tom Haines interviews Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana on a bill that would direct the FAA to allow many pilots to fly using a driver's license for a medical certificate.