Ask any pilot what they fear the most, and the most likely answer will be, "losing my medical." That's why AOPA has the largest staff of any association devoted exclusively to helping pilots get and keep their medicals. And AOPA devotes extensive resources to always "expanding the envelope," to get more medical conditions certified for flight when there is no threat to safety.
Today, for example, many pilots can get their special issuance medicals renewed through their aviation medical examiner (AME), rather than having to go through the FAA's Oklahoma office every year. Recently several heart conditions that require a special issuance medical, including bypass surgery, were added to the list of 35 special issuances that can be renewed by a local doctor under AME Assisted Special Issuance (AASI) procedures. (AASI procedures apply only to renewals. The first special issuance for any medical condition has to be approved by the FAA.)
AOPA has advocated for the AASI program since 1997 and recently helped to double the number of medical conditions eligible.
"Our goal this year is to bring more of the benefits of modern medicine to pilots," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "There are literally thousands of people now leading healthy lives and performing critical tasks affecting the safety of many thanks to modern medications and medical procedures. Yet the FAA won't let these same people fly an airplane. There's a disconnect there."
Many AOPA members agree. "I'm allowed to perform brain surgery while taking an SSRI anti-depressant," e-mailed one doctor recently, "but I can't fly a 172."
"We got the rules changed back in 1996 to allow insulin-dependent diabetics to fly," said Crump. "It's time to bring that same kind of thinking to many other pathologies that when properly treated, don't prevent a pilot from flying safely."
March 23, 2006