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FAA releases third class medical reform final rule

Regulations effective May 1

The FAA has released a final rule on third class medical reform, though it will be several months before pilots can fly under the new program that the agency has named BasicMed.

Teams of AOPA experts are examining the Jan. 10 announcement, which at first look appears to closely mirror the legislation signed into law on July 15, 2016. Pilots should note that BasicMed will not be effective until May 1, so they cannot fly under the rule until then.

"BasicMed is the best thing to happen to general aviation in decades," said AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker. "By putting medical decisions in the hands of pilots and their doctors, instead of the FAA, these reforms will improve safety while reducing burdensome and ineffective bureaucracy that has thwarted participation in general aviation."

During the announcement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “I believe BasicMed is a win for the general aviation community, and I’m happy that our FAA team has brought it across the finish line.”

In the near future, AOPA will be offering a free online medical course to let pilots comply with the BasicMed rules. The course is just one part of a range of AOPA's Fit to Fly resources for pilots and physicians created to help people take full advantage of BasicMed. The Fit to Fly resources also include an interactive tool that helps you determine if you qualify for BasicMed as well as FAQs and other important information for you and your doctor.

AOPA will closely review the new rule and associated advisory circular, and keep members informed about flying under the new regulations.

"As with any regulation, the details are critical, and we’ll be carefully analyzing the rule and seeking clarification where needed," said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. "We, along with our supporters in Congress, worked diligently to bring these reforms to pilots, and now we need to make sure they deliver the benefits lawmakers intended."

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 Pilots whose most recent medical certificate was revoked, suspended, withdrawn, or denied will need to obtain a new medical certificate before they can operate under the reforms.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.

The FAA explained that “what we’re providing is an alternative path. Under BasicMed, the FAA provides two avenues to meet the medical requirements.”

After meeting the initial requirements to fly under the reforms, pilots will need to visit any state-licensed physician at least once every four years and take the free aeromedical factors online course every two years. The course will be available for free on AOPA’s website. A certificate of completion of the course and the checklist from the physician must be kept in the pilot’s logbook; alternatively, pilots may carry a legible representation, such as a smartphone image, of the document to be able to show to an FAA inspector if asked. The checklist will be a four-page form that includes instructions for you and your physician. No information from the checklist you complete along with your physician is sent to the FAA.

"The course will put the focus on safety," said AOPA Pilot Information Center Medical Certification Section Director Gary Crump. "We encourage members to take notes as they work though the course so they’re prepared to answer the questions at the end."

AOPA staff members applaud after an FAA announcement involving the final rule for third class medical reform, called BasicMed, which goes into effect May 1. Photo by David Tulis.
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.

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