“We did it together! Medical reforms are now the law, and that’s a big win for general aviation,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “It has taken years of commitment and hard work to make these reforms a reality. AOPA and EAA started the current reform effort back in 2012 when we petitioned the FAA for a medical exemption but the terms of that petition were much more limited than what pilots will get under the new reform law. This is something our entire community can get excited about.”
We did it together! Medical reforms are now the law, and that’s a big win for general aviation.—AOPA President Mark Baker
“The reforms are now law and that means we’re in the home stretch when it comes to getting more pilots flying without compelling them to repeatedly go through the expensive and burdensome medical certification process,” said Baker. “But there’s more work to do to ensure that the law is translated into regulations that make sense and work in the real world.”
Under the reforms, pilots who have held a valid medical certificate any time in the decade prior to July 15, 2016, may not need to take another FAA medical exam. The 10-year lookback period applies to both regular and special issuance medicals. Pilots whose most recent medical certificate was revoked, suspended, withdrawn, or denied will need to obtain a new medical certificate before they can operate under the reforms. Pilots who have never held an FAA medical certificate, including student pilots, will need to go through the process one time only.
After meeting the initial requirements to fly under the reforms, pilots will need to visit a state-licensed physician at least once every four years and take a free online course on aeromedical factors every two years. More details about these requirements and answers to the most common questions about the reforms are available on AOPA's FAQ page.
"We have fought long and hard for medical reforms and thanks to the support of GA supporters in both the House and Senate, those reforms are now the law. We are very pleased that pilots will soon reap the benefits, but the devil is always in the details, and some of those details will be worked out in the rulemaking process," said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. "That's why our team will be closely monitoring the FAA's next steps and providing input and the pilots' perspective at every opportunity."
As far back as 1979, AOPA petitioned the FAA to extend the validity of the third class medical certificate from two years to three. Then in the 1980s, AOPA petition the FAA to create the recreational pilot certificate. As first proposed, the recreational certificate would have allowed pilots to fly using only a driver’s license to fulfill the medical requirement, but that provision was removed from the final rule. In the early 1990s, AOPA again petitioned the FAA to extend the duration of third class medical certificate—this time to 48 months. And for a decade, AOPA worked with the FAA on developing regulations for light sport aircraft and the sport pilot certificate. Sport pilots have now been flying safely for more than a decade using only a driver’s license to meet the medical requirement.
Our most recent journey to medical reforms began in 2012 with another petition—this one filed by AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association. Follow along the winding path that began with that petition and has now made medical reforms a reality.