The Department of Transportation has announced plans to complete its review of proposed third class medical reforms on Jan. 26, allowing the FAA’s draft rule to move to the Office of Management and Budget for another round of mandatory reviews. Meanwhile, AOPA has pledged to keep pushing for legislation to relieve thousands of pilots of the third class medical requirement.
“The general aviation community has waited too long for medical reform,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We will keep pushing for action on every possible front, including seeking a legislative solution with help from our friends in Congress.
“Last year’s General Aviation Pilot Protection Act won the support of more than 180 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and Senate. Lawmakers recognize how important this issue is for the future of general aviation. We expect to new legislation to be introduced this year, and if we can’t get action on standalone legislation, we will do all we can to get it included in the FAA reauthorization bill.”
In the meantime, the proposed FAA rule to reform the third class medical process is scheduled to leave the DOT nearly seven months after the department received it for a mandatory review that was scheduled to take no more than 90 days. Once the DOT releases the proposed rule, it will move to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which will also have 90 days to review and comment. Only after that review is complete will the FAA publish the notice of proposed rulemaking for public review.
Although DOT announced the schedule on its website, there is no guarantee that the rule will move out of the department as planned. The OMB review could also take longer than the scheduled 90 days.
“We hope the process will finally move forward,” said Baker. “Reforming the third class medical certification system will save pilots and the FAA money, boost general aviation, and stimulate economic activity. These are all good things, and the government should be moving swiftly to make it happen, not dragging its feet.”
Throughout the process, AOPA and others have been pushing regulators to move reform ahead.
“Proposed medical reforms, which simply seek to expand on a standard used successfully for a decade, have been under review for three years, making it incomprehensible to many in the aviation community that no action has yet been taken,” Baker wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The standard, which allows some pilots to fly recreationally without obtaining a third class medical certificate, has been in use since 2004 when the FAA adopted the sport pilot rule. Since then, it has proved to be safe and effective, and expanded reform has won widespread support.
Major aviation organizations and type clubs have publicly expressed support for reforms as have the Flying Physicians Association and the AOPA Medical Advisory Board, whose members are both doctors and pilots.