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AOPA says medical reform is closer than ever before

Inhofe explains key provisions on Senate floor

Editor's note: AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association answer some of the most common questions about modifications to the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2. Check out these frequently asked questions about third class medical reform.

As support for the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 continues to grow, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has taken to the Senate floor to explain key provisions of the measure.

As of Sept. 25, 67 senators and 140 members of the House from both parties had signed on to co-sponsor the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2. Since July, when AOPA sent a call to action asking members to contact their elected officials, the number of Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 co-sponsors has grown by some 60 names.  

“We’re pleased to see the number of co-sponsors continue to rise,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “Tens of thousands of AOPA members have contacted their elected officials and asked them to co-sponsor Pilot's Bill of Rights 2, and our staff has left no stone unturned when it comes to building support for this legislation. There’s still a lot of work left to do before third class medical reform becomes a reality, either as part of Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 or as an amendment to other legislation, but we are closer than we’ve ever been before to getting this done.”

In his remarks on the Senate floor, Inhofe noted that a decade of experience with the sport pilot rule has proven that pilots can fly safely without going through the third class medical process.

The Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 was first introduced in the House and Senate in February and has since undergone some revisions to address concerns raised by members of Congress and others. Inhofe addressed those changes in his floor speech, emphasizing that under Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 pilots would be spared the hassle of repeatedly going through the third class medical process.

Under the legislation, thousands of pilots flying a wide range of aircraft would not be required to obtain a third class medical certificate.

While new pilots would need to obtain FAA medical certification one time in order to establish a benchmark for their health, they would not need to make repeat visits to an FAA aviation medical examiner (AME). Any pilot who has held a valid third class medical, either regular or special issuance, within the past 10 years, would be considered as having met the initial certification requirement. Private pilots who have had a heart condition involving surgery, mental, or neurological issues would be required to go through the special issuance process one time only.

In addition, pilots would be required to take an online medical education course every two years. The course would cover a range of aviation medical issues, including the effects of over-the-counter medications on pilots.

“Requiring pilots to take this course boosts aviation safety for the general aviation community,” Inhofe said.

Pilots also would be required to see their personal physician at least once every four years, make a note of the visit in their logbooks, and certify that they are receiving proper care for any condition requiring medical treatment. As proof that they’ve met the requirement, pilots would need to provide the doctor’s name and address and the date of the exam when they take the online medical course. They also would have to note the information in their logbooks, but would not have to file any paperwork with the FAA. This approach would help foster honest dialogues between pilots and their doctors and ensure that pilots receive the medical care they need, Inhofe said.

The medical exemption created by the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 would not change the requirement that pilots self-certify their fitness before every flight. But it would give pilots relief from what Inhofe described as the “constant churn of submitting paperwork over and over,” even when the pilot’s medical status is unchanged.

The modifications to Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 outlined by Inhofe in his floor speech closely match the terms of the so-called Manchin Amendment, which was submitted, but did not become part of, the Senate highway bill passed in July. That amendment came under fire from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which said it would not support the measure, although numerous other pilot groups and unions have endorsed it. Since that time AOPA has met with ALPA to seek common ground.

“We’ve worked with the leaders of ALPA and addressed their concerns,” said Coon. “We’ve been told that they now believe that third class medical reform does not pose a safety risk.”

AOPA has been mobilizing members, working with senators and members of the House, and exploring every possible option for obtaining third class medical reform.

“We’re 100 percent committed to getting the very best possible deal for our members, and getting it done as fast as possible,” said Coon. “There are many factors beyond our control, including a limited number of legislative days before the end of the year and major political issues like funding for Planned Parenthood, but we are 100 percent committed to getting third class medical reform. We’ll keep working to build momentum for Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 and we’ll continue to look for opportunities to have medical reform language included in other types of legislation that are moving through Congress.”

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, Capitol Hill, AOPA

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