The FAA’s new BasicMed program that will soon allow many pilots to fly without a third class medical certificate is expected to save pilots and the FAA millions of dollars over the first 10 years, according to an agency economic analysis.
Between the rule’s effective date of May 1, 2017, and 2026, the net benefit of the rule—expressed as reduced medical certification costs balanced against costs of implementing BasicMed—is projected to be $67.7 million, according to a regulatory evaluation by the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans, Economic Analysis Division.
The analysis estimated that BasicMed will reduce costs by about $382.9 million through the elimination of time spent by pilots completing medical applications, traveling to medical examinations, and the cost of the exams. The savings include an estimate of the cost burden of special issuance medicals and follow-up examinations, and direct savings to the FAA of about $1.8 million.
The $382.9 million in savings would be offset by $315.1 million in costs incurred for physical examinations of participating pilots by a state-licensed physician every 48 months under BasicMed; the medical education course pilots must complete every 24 calendar months; and an increase in National Driver Register checks on pilots under age 40.
Nearly $54 million in savings will be realized in the first year of BasicMed alone, the largest annual savings over the first 10 years. Part of that, the FAA said citing 2013 data, is based on an estimate that 13 percent of third class medical certificates are special issuances, and that “327,324 pilots with a special issuance or expired medical certificate will need to complete the medical education course in 2017.”
The analysis’ assumptions leave some room for error, such as the unknown number of pilots who may choose not to participate in the voluntary BasicMed program and continue seeking medical certificates.
“The analysis assumes that if you had a special issuance and/or lapsed medical you would get back into flying,” Oord said. “We are hoping a significant portion do.”