Legislators push for quick action on medical reform

August 20, 2014

Key lawmakers are asking the Department of Transportation and administration to expedite a review of the FAA’s proposed rulemaking on third class medical reform.

In two separate letters, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) wrote to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, urging his department to complete its review of the FAA notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) within the next 30 days and open the proposal for public comment. All three lawmakers are members of the General Aviation Caucus and supporters of the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, legislation that would allow thousands more pilots to fly without the need for a third class medical certificate.

“We appreciate the support and leadership of Senator Begich and Representatives Rokita and Graves,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “They realize just how important this is to pilots and to the GA industry, and we are pleased to be working with them to eliminate unnecessary and costly bureaucracy. The FAA has dragged its feet on third class medical reform for too long. The general aviation community deserves relief from this cumbersome and outdated process. We’ll do everything we can to get quick action.”

In his Aug. 14 letter, Begich wrote that one of the reasons he founded the Senate General Aviation Caucus was to ensure government agencies respond to commonsense ideas like third class medical reform. He also noted that the proposed reforms expand on a medical standard used by sport pilots for a decade.

In their own Aug. 15 letter, Rokita and Graves, original sponsors of the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, said they introduced the bill, which now has 129 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate, because their constituents have been frustrated by the FAA’s inaction. Grave is also co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus.

The letter also noted that the GA industry is an important economic engine that has suffered significantly in recent years. It added that any steps to reduce bureaucracy and lower costs can help stimulate the industry and ensure continued American leadership.

The letters followed FAA Administrator Michael Huerta’s announcement that the agency’s NPRM had been sent to the DOT for review. During that announcement, Huerta indicated that it could take six months to two years before a final rulemaking is available, disappointing many in the GA community who were hoping for swift action after the FAA failed to respond to a joint AOPA-EAA petition filed more than two-and-a-half years ago.

“Our patience has run out and we simply refuse to be kept waiting indefinitely for this much-needed change,” Baker said. “We need reform, and we will keep pursuing every possible avenue until we get it.”

Thousands of AOPA members have already contacted their members of Congress to ask them to support medical reform by co-sponsoring the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act. And thousands more have signed AOPA’s traveling petition at airshows and events throughout the summer. The petition will be available at all of AOPA’s remaining fly-in events, set for Sept. 20 in Chino, California; Oct. 4 in Frederick, Maryland; and Nov. 8 in St. Simons, Georgia.

Elizabeth Tennyson

Elizabeth A Tennyson | Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications, AOPA

Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications Elizabeth Tennyson joined AOPA in 1998, the same year she earned her private pilot certificate. She also holds an instrument rating and enjoys jumping out of planes almost as much as flying them.