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FAA report validates BasicMed safety

An FAA report submitted to Congress (as required) on March 10 reviewed three years of general aviation data and concluded that the BasicMed program is safe.

Pilots who complete the steps for BasicMed qualification can fly in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 lbs. gross takeoff weight, with up to six seats and carrying up to five passengers. They can fly day or night, VFR or IFR, at speeds up to 250 kts and at altitudes up to 18,000 feet msl.

The study team assembled to fulfill the FAA obligation to report the results of BasicMed implementation to Congress included representatives from the FAA’s Flight Standards Service, the Office of Aerospace Medicine, and the Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention. Their review found no differences in safety when comparing private pilots flying with BasicMed medical qualification to private pilots who obtain third class medical certificates.

The fundamental difference between the two medical qualification programs is that third class medical exams can only be conducted by an FAA-designated aviation medical examiner, while BasicMed allows for either an AME or a licensed medical doctor to perform physical examinations.

According to the FAA’s report, “No difference was found in the risk of BasicMed and third-class airmen having an aviation accident from the start of BasicMed in 2017 through the end of 2019. No difference was found between accident involved BasicMed and third-class airmen in the phase of flight in which their accident occurred. No difference was found between accident involved BasicMed and third-class airmen in fatal versus non-fatal outcomes. No difference was found between fatally injured BasicMed and third-class airmen in autopsy findings.”

“The FAA’s report to Congress confirms what we have known for years: BasicMed works and BasicMed pilots remain safe pilots,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We have just gone through the safest three or four years in general aviation history; the FAA recently expanded the BasicMed program to include safety pilots; nations such as Mexico and the Bahamas accept U.S. pilots flying with BasicMed; and I strongly believe the program will continue to grow and expand.”

The number of individuals holding a private or student pilot certificate in the United States has climbed from 584,000 in 2016 to nearly 757,000 today, a 30-percent increase. According to the FAA, private pilots account for more than 26 million safe flying hours annually, which represents more than 30 million takeoffs and landings each year.

According to the FAA report, the total number of aircraft hours flown by pilots having a BasicMed certificate increased from over 15 million in 2017, the year FAA implemented BasicMed, to over 16 million in 2019.

AOPA's Air Safety Institute has reported that the overall GA accident rate, based on National Transportation Safety Board data, including BasicMed pilots, is at its lowest level in decades, and continuing to drop every year since the 1990s. The GA community has never had a stronger focus on safety, and the U.S. airspace continues to be the safest in the world.

Pilots using BasicMed must also successfully complete an FAA-approved online medical education course every other year to maintain their medical qualification. This has proven to be very educational, as nearly 80,000 pilots have qualified to fly under BasicMed since 2017.

AOPA provides many of the resources pilots need to better understand the requirements of BasicMed, including those to determine eligibility, the medical exam checklist that must be reviewed by a pilot and their physician, a BasicMed physician finder, an online medical education course, and instructions on how to file the application.

AOPA also provides aviators with engaging and informative online videos about BasicMed as well as helpful FAQs for pilots and physicians. The online course and educational materials cover such topics as health self-assessment, when to see a doctor, conditions that may require a closer look, and how to use diet and exercise to stay sharp for the flight deck and in life.

Alyssa J. Miller
Eric Blinderman
Senior Director of Communications
Eric Blinderman is AOPA’s Senior Director of Communications. Eric joined AOPA in 2020 after several years at leading marketing/communications agencies in New York and is looking forward to putting his newly minted private pilot certificate to work.
Topics: Advocacy, BasicMed

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