FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said last week that her agency has sent the rule to create the new sport pilot certification, and with it the ability to use a driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate, to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That's the next stop on the proposed rule's arduous route to becoming a final rule. It may be the end of the year or later before the process is complete. Blakey made the announcement at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
The sport pilot rule establishes a new class of aircraft (light sport aircraft) and airman (sport pilot). As a sport pilot certificate holder, a pilot will be limited to flying day VFR in a two-place, single-engine, non-turbine aircraft having a gross weight no greater than 1,232 pounds (560 kg).
"AOPA members strongly support using the driver's license as a means to meet the medical requirements for a sport pilot certificate," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "That would be particularly important for pilots who have lost their medicals. Our own survey shows that 70 percent of our members would revert to flying certified aircraft as a sport pilot if they were to lose their medical certification."
AOPA has long advocated letting recreational pilots, and ultimately private pilots, use the same medical certification standard as for sport pilot. Last year, the FAA denied an AOPA petition to let recreational pilots use driver's licenses for medical certification. But the agency made clear that the petition was not denied on its merits, but because it wants to see how sport pilot works before expanding the rule.
Drivers are required to affirm their general health when obtaining a license and conversely to not drive if they have reason to know their health creates a hazardous condition. That requirement mirrors FAR 61.53(a)(1), which states that a person shall not act as pilot in command if that person "knows or has reason to know of any medical condition" that would disqualify the pilot.
[See also AOPA's regulatory brief.]