Third class medical reform efforts continue to move forward, and AOPA will pursue every possible avenue to ensure that pilots get the relief they need, the association said June 23.
“This is an issue we are working on every day,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “We know how important it is to members and to the future of general aviation, so we will keep pursuing reform through every means available to us.”
AOPA’s government affairs team meets daily with legislators and key staff members to urge their support for the Pilots Bill of Rights 2, and an AOPA call to action prompted members to contact their elected officials more than 78,000 times in support of the bill. That legislation, which has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, includes language that would allow thousands of pilots to fly a wide range of aircraft without needing to obtain a third class medical certificate. The Pilots Bill of Rights 2 has widespread bipartisan support with more than 130 co-sponsors in the House and Senate.
AOPA is pursuing every legislative route possible whether that means a stand-alone bill, having reform language included in the upcoming FAA reauthorization, or possibly having it attached to other legislative vehicles.
“I want our members to know that we will leave no stone unturned, that we are pursuing this relentlessly, that we are focused, and that I am confident that our hard work and persistence will pay off,” Coon explained. “Has this gone fast enough? Absolutely not. Are we committed to getting this done? Absolutely. We will not stop until we get this done, and we look forward to seeing significant movement soon.”
A number of significant pieces of transportation and aviation legislation will be debated in Congress in July, including an FAA reauthorization measure. The FAA’s current authorization expires Sept. 30, and the reauthorization process, which sets long-term funding and policy priorities for the agency, is already underway. AOPA has been actively involved in that process, with AOPA President Mark Baker delivering the general aviation perspective on reauthorization issues, including a strong and consistent no-user-fees-in-any-form stance, before multiple House and Senate committees and roundtables.
AOPA’s pursuit of third class medical reform to expand on the successful sport pilot medical standard, which has safely allowed some pilots to fly without a third class medical certificate for more than a decade, is nothing new. In March 2012, AOPA and EAA jointly filed a petition with the FAA to expand the standard to more pilots and more types of aircraft.
In the approximately 18 months since Baker took the helm at AOPA, he has continued to pursue FAA regulatory action while embarking on an effort to work with Congress to promote a legislative solution. The 2014 General Aviation Pilot Protection Act gained solid support, but time ran out in the 113th Congress before the bill could be brought to a vote.
In the meantime, the FAA did develop a proposed rule to address needed changes to the third class medical process. The draft rule has been held up in the Department of Transportation's review process for nearly a year with no sign of movement despite repeated requests from AOPA, members of Congress, and others in the industry.
The start of the 114th Congress in January 2015 brought new legislation in the form of the Pilots Bill of Rights 2, which includes third class medical reform and other provisions that address the rights of pilots dealing with FAA enforcement actions.
“If everyone agreed on everything, we’d have this done by now,” said Coon. “We share our members’ frustration with how long it is taking to get this done, but we are not giving up. In fact, we’re more determined than ever to get pilots the relief they need from this outdated and costly requirement, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.”