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BasicMed Misconceptions

What pilots still don't understand

By Daniel Hassing 

BasicMed is one of AOPA and general aviation’s greatest achievements in the past several decades. BasicMed has freed many pilots from the cumbersome medical certification process. But despite its potential, BasicMed is still poorly understood.

Many misconceptions result from “hangar talk,” which too often resembles the children’s game of “telephone,” and frequently leads to zany results. As pilots, we know we should not be relying on what someone thinks they might have heard from someone else when it comes to our regulatory compliance. This article counters some of the misconceptions we’ve heard while counseling members. 

First, allowing your BasicMed to lapse does not mean that you must revert to a medical certificate. Instead, you must simply complete the expired BasicMed item. Remember, you must complete a BasicMed medical examination checklist with a state-licensed physician every 48 months. You must also take an FAA-approved BasicMed medical education course every 24 calendar months. But the fact that you missed one of these requirements does not mean you must revert to a medical certificate.  

Second, BasicMed pilots can fly under IFR. BasicMed imposes limits on the speed, weight, and seating capacity of the aircraft. There is also a limit on how high you can fly. But there is no prohibition on flying under IFR. Likewise, BasicMed pilots can fly at night. 

Third, BasicMed pilots cannot fly for compensation or hire. Given the breadth of the FAA’s definition of “compensation,” you want to err on the side of caution. If you question whether your operation is BasicMed-compliant, please call AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services. 

Finally, there are certain medical diagnoses that require that you to stop flying and obtain a new medical certificate, even if you are already on BasicMed. If you are diagnosed with any condition listed in FAR 68.9, you should self-ground until you obtain a special issuance medical certificate. The conditions in 68.9 fall under three umbrellas: mental health disorders, neurological conditions, and cardiovascular conditions.  

BasicMed largely operates under the honor system, and pilots are expected to monitor their health with their physicians. Given the trust instilled in pilots, we must remain cognizant of our privileges and limitations under BasicMed. If you have a question about them, call AOPA.

Daniel Hassing is an attorney for AOPA Legal Services.

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