The FAA recently denied AOPA's petition to allow pilots to use a driver's license as a medical certificate provided those pilots limit themselves to recreational pilot privileges. But the FAA hasn't closed the door on the idea.
"We met with top FAA officials this week, and they made it clear the idea was not rejected on its merits," said Andrew V. Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "The FAA is already considering the idea of a driver's license medical for sport pilots. While we didn't like it, they said they had too many other rulemaking projects right now for them to consider this specific petition."
In July, AOPA had petitioned the FAA, asking for the driver's-license-as-medical for sport pilot and recreational pilot privileges. The petition formalized AOPA comments on the FAA's sport pilot proposal. The FAA acknowledged that its sport pilot proposal and AOPA's recreational pilot proposal addressed similar issues but said the AOPA petition was "premature."
The FAA said it wanted to evaluate the operations of sport pilots using a valid driver's license in lieu of a medical before it extended the option to recreational pilot privileges.
"Frankly, we think the FAA has all of the data it should need," countered Cebula. "An FAA committee did a comprehensive statistical analysis in 1995, and AOPA updated the data this year. There is no meaningful correlation between general aviation accidents and medical certificates. Medical incapacitation is not a significant cause of accidents, whether or not a medical certificate is required."
Cebula said that AOPA would continue pushing for a driver's license medical for recreational pilots. "We have other avenues to go down to make this happen."