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Type clubs are latest to join AOPA push for medical reform

The Type Club Coalition has become the latest group to join AOPA in urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to speed up their review of a proposed rule to reform the third class medical process. The coalition, which comprises more than 30 separate organizations each representing a specific aircraft type, was established to foster a strong safety culture and build community among the operators of many types of aircraft. 

The Oct. 23 letter was coordinated by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and signed by 19 different groups, including the AOPA Foundation's Air Safety Institute. It cites the long and successful history of pilots self-certifying their fitness to fly, noting that pilots have flown safely without a third class medical certificate under sport pilot rules for a decade, and for far longer than that in gliders, balloons, and ultralights. In fact, the group says, safety could be improved by keeping pilots in the aircraft they know best.

“We believe that allowing pilots to fly the proven and safe aircraft that they have logged the majority of their hours in under simplified aeromedical rules, rather than encouraging a transition to a new aircraft so that they may fly under sport pilot rules, is more effective from a safety of flight perspective,” the coalition wrote.

The letter is the latest in a series of actions AOPA is taking to keep medical reform moving forward.

“We continue to work on this issue each and every day. We continue to meet with members of Congress and their staffs, seeking additional support for the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, and urging DOT and OMB to move forward on the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking. And we’ll keep pushing ahead on both the legislation and the rulemaking tracks until we get relief for pilots,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “Unfortunately, bureaucracy is inherently slow moving and the rulemaking process is not moving as quickly as we want.”

Even during the Congressional recess, AOPA continues to pursue action on multiple fronts. The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act now has more than  150 co-sponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate. And the FAA’s proposed rulemaking is going through a mandatory review process. All major rule changes initiated by the FAA must be vetted by both the DOT and the OMB before they can be published and opened to public comment.

AOPA has also been working closely with a wide range of medical reform supporters, encouraging them to send letters urging DOT and OMB to speed up the review process so pilots can get relief from the cumbersome, expensive, and outdated third class medical process. In addition to the Type Club Coalition, others who have contacted DOT and OMB include members of the House General Aviation Caucus; a group of 11 senators led by John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) who are co-sponsoring legislation to reform the third class medical process; Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), original sponsors of the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act; Senate GA Caucus Co-chair Mark Begich (D-Alaska); a coalition of seven general aviation industry groups led by AOPA; the Flying Physicians Association; and the AOPA Medical Advisory Board.

In a recent AOPA Live interview, Rokita expressed confidence that medical reform will happen and set out his plans to keep the issue front and center during the next session of Congress.

AOPA members, too, are playing an important role in keeping the issue of medical reform on the agenda. AOPA members received an association call to action asking them to urge their senators and members of Congress to support third class medical reform and the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, and tens of thousands responded.

“We really appreciate the active engagement of AOPA members on this issue,” said Coon. “When their constituents speak, lawmakers listen, and AOPA member support has kept the number of co-sponsors growing. If your representative or your senators haven’t yet signed on to support the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, contact their offices and let them know that third class medical reform is important to you.”

A current list of co-sponsors is available on AOPA Online. Information about how to contact your member of Congress is available at the U.S. House website, and you can find contact information for your state’s senators at the U.S. Senate site

Some 8,000 AOPA members have also signed a traveling petition that has been available at each of AOPA’s Fly-In events. There will be one more chance to sign the petition during the final 2014 AOPA Fly-In to be held Nov. 8 in St. Simons, Georgia. After that, the petition will go to Capitol Hill.

“We know our members want change yesterday, and frankly, so do we,” said Coon. “But you can be certain that AOPA will continue to work for medical reform every single day until we get the changes we need.”

It’s still unclear exactly when the FAA will release its notice of proposed rulemaking for public review and comment, something that cannot happen until the DOT and OMB reviews are complete. It is expected that the draft rule will be made available in December or January and followed by a public comment period.

Elizabeth Tennyson
Elizabeth A Tennyson
Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Advocacy, AOPA, AOPA Air Safety Institute

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