The FAA has denied AOPA's petition for exemption from the current medical certification rules to allow AOPA member pilots to use a driver's license to meet the minimum medical requirement, provided those pilots limit themselves to recreational pilot privileges. The FAA told AOPA that it only wanted to evaluate the operations of sport pilots using a valid driver's license in lieu of a medical, and that it is premature to consider including recreational pilot operations. In its denial, the FAA indicated that there is still some question about whether it will even allow the use of a driver's license to meet the third class medical requirement for sport pilot.
This latest AOPA petition is the association's continued attempt to get the FAA to relax its medical standards for recreational pilots. In its comments to last year's sport pilot rule, AOPA recommended the same action. The FAA denied a similar AOPA petition for rulemaking change back in November 2002, citing current rulemaking priorities and limited resources as the primary reason. At that time, AOPA felt that the FAA left the door open for a limited exemption from the rules using specific criteria. Both petitions and AOPA's comments to the sport pilot rule reflect AOPA's position on this issue.
An FAA committee did a comprehensive statistical analysis in 1995, and AOPA updated the data this year, and this was presented to the FAA in the AOPA petition. "AOPA's petition was intended to supplement this information, by proposing establishment of a limited study group using the driver's license to meet the third class medical requirement, said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "We are disappointed with this denial, because the data show that there is no meaningful correlation between general aviation accidents and medical certificates; we continue to believe this is a viable idea worth pursuing."