Just six weeks into BasicMed, more than 10,000 pilots have completed the checklist, exam, and AOPA Medical Self-Assessment online course and are now flying under the BasicMed rule. The response to the new FAA medical certification alternative has been overwhelmingly positive from both pilots and physicians. Among the medical reforms is that a pilot can have the exam completed by any state-licensed physician, as opposed to going to an aviation medical examiner (AME), which is required for a traditional third class medical.
Most doctors have welcomed BasicMed. Physicians Immediate Care, which has a network of clinics in Illinois, Indiana, and Nebraska, recently announced its physicians will perform BasicMed exams following an information session with AOPA officials.
Dr. Paul Collins, an AME in Idaho, has already performed 20 exams and called BasicMed “a very good improvement” for pilots.
Collins said BasicMed allows pilots to avoid “unnecessary and repetitive” medical tests, which can be expensive. Collins also told AOPA that BasicMed “changes the aviation medical examination from a potentially exclusionary assessment to an ongoing health improvement program.”
When it comes to BasicMed, Dr. John Sciarrino, an AME in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is an advocate for the pilot. Sciarrino believes that physicians who are hesitant to perform the exams are those who have limited experience with aviation. Once they are educated, he’s confident BasicMed will take hold. “BasicMed is new…physicians will eventually feel as comfortable with it as they do filling out forms for driver’s licenses and commercial truckers.”
Despite the success of BasicMed, there have been occasions where physicians have been reluctant to perform the exams. “If a physician is uncomfortable with the new rules, we do what we always do—refer them to someone else,” says Dr. Ian Fries, an AME, Orthopedic Surgeon and AOPA medical consultant. “Physicians make decisions all the time on whether someone is certified to drive a car, or scuba dive or go to work.”
Fries emphasized that ultimately the pilot has the final go/no-go decision under FAA regulations.
Dr. Patrick Larreategui of Miami County Surgeons in Ohio believes that, once educated, physicians should have no problem signing off on BasicMed exams. “The BasicMed exam is no different than physical exams we perform for employers, athletes, and wellness visits. I view this program as an opportunity for physicians who wish to assist their pilot patients, without going through the process of becoming an AME.” Larreategui goes on to say “Many physicians who are not familiar with BasicMed will have questions about the requirements and process. The pilots who are seeking BasicMed exams will need to know where to direct physicians to get information about the program. Once they learn about the program, I believe most physicians will want to help.”
To answer those questions, AOPA has produced a Pilot and Physician Guide that also includes the FAA Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC). AOPA recommends pilots make clear they are interested in a BasicMed exam when making the appointment, and send the guide to the office for review ahead of an appointment. Additionally, pilots should arrive at the examination with the self-assessment portion of the checklist already completed and then take the online course after the CMEC and physical exam are complete.