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Here comes third class medical reformHere comes third class medical reform

What does it mean for your flight school?

If you haven’t heard the term “BasicMed” before now, expect to hear a lot about it in the days leading up to May 1. That’s when the FAA’s third class medical reform final rule takes effect.  

The FAA issued the rule on Jan. 10. BasicMed mirrors the legislation that was signed into law on July 15, 2016. As you’ve probably read, most pilots who have held a valid medical certificate any time in the decade prior to July 15, 2016, need not take another medical exam. They can fly under BasicMed so long as they meet some additional requirements. These include completing a free online medical education course every two years, and visiting a state-licensed physician at least once every four years.

There are limitations on aircraft (up to six certificated seats, up to 6,000 pounds), the airspeed (up to 250 knots indicated) the number of passengers (up to five), and the altitude that may be flown (up to 18,000 feet msl). Pilots, if properly rated, may fly day or night under visual flight rules or instrument flight rules.

Let’s break out the final rule as it applies to different kinds of pilots who might walk through your door.

New pilots: Pilots who have never held an FAA medical certificate, including student pilots, will need to visit an AME for a medical certificate once if they intend to exercise private pilot privileges in powered aircraft. Thereafter, they can fly under BasicMed so long as they meet the requirements. The federal aviation regulations governing the sport pilot certificate are not changing.

Your flight instructors will need to guide new clients through the process of applying for a third class medical certificate, just as they have always done, or explaining the valid driver’s license requirement of the sport pilot certificate.

Current customers: Presumably most of your customers are flying with valid third class medical certificates. These pilots can continue to get a new certificate every two to five years, or, after May 1, they can fly under BasicMed as long as they continue to meet the requirements.

Rusty pilots: We’re hoping the final rule brings many lapsed pilots back into the fold—and they’re likely to come to you looking to get back into the left seat.

As noted, BasicMed applies to most pilots who have held a valid medical certificate any time in the decade prior to July 2016. Those pilots can fly under BasicMed as of May 1 so long as they meet the other requirements.

Pilots who have been out of flying for longer than that 10-year lookback period will need to renew the third class medical (or get a special issuance medical) one time. Then they’ll be eligible to fly under BasicMed.

Certificated flight instructors: The final rule may affect your CFIs as well. Flight instructors meeting the requirements of BasicMed can act as pilot in command while giving flight training without holding a medical certificate regardless of whether the person receiving flight training holds a medical certificate. However, pilots cannot operate for compensation or for hire.

As May 1 approaches, you might have more questions about how it applies to you, your customers, and your flight instructors. AOPA developed Fit to Fly resources to help pilots and doctors understand BasicMed: frequently asked questions, conditions requiring additional attention, physician resources for treating pilots, pilot resources, and an interactive tool to determine if a pilot can fly under BasicMed.

If you have additional questions, contact AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800-USA-AOPA. 

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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