Aeromedical Reform – a giant boost to USA’s general aviation sector

A decade of joint effort by USA general aviation interest groups culminated in a huge victory for American GA pilots last week when US President Barack Obama signed “third class” pilot medical reform into law as part of the 2016 Federal Aviation Administration Extension Bill passed by Congress in that week.

Ten years of teamwork has rewarded the USA Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) with a breath of fresh air that will reaffirm the USA’s leadership in the help of strong government support of its vibrant general aviation sector.

The move will free thousands of USA pilots from restrictions on the former one-size-fits-all certificate that imposed similar limitations to those CASA applies to Australian class 2 medical certificate holders, which heavily limit aircraft speed, operating altitudes, number of passengers, systems complexity, and VFR-only operations.

The president’s signature came just hours before the FAA’s existing authorisations became law, and the clock is now ticking on FAA’s mandate to translate the new laws into its regulations with tight deadlines.

Who will benefit?
Prior to the new rules, USA third-class medical holders were limited to 4 seats but only one passenger, 180 hp, single-engine, fixed gear, day VFR-only conditions, a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet or up to 2,000 feet AGL and an obligation to take a (free) on-line aeromedical online training in aeromedical factors every two years.

Pilots flying under the new rules will now be allowed to operate aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg), carrying up to five passengers plus the pilot in command, flying at up to 18,000 feet, and at cruising speeds of up to 250 knots. Pilots, if appropriately rated, can fly VFR or IFR in qualified aircraft. There are no limitations on horsepower, number of engines, or gear type.)

“This means almost any third-class medical certificate holder can benefit from these reforms,” says EAA. “In fact, almost anyone who has held a regular or special issuance third-class medical certificate within the 10 years preceding the date the legislation is enacted will never again need to visit an aviation medical examiner (AME). If you’ve never held a third-class medical certificate, you will need to get a medical certificate one-time only. If your regular or special issuance medical certificate lapsed more than 10 years before the legislation is enacted, you will need to get a medical certificate one time only. And if you develop certain cardiac, neurological, or psychological conditions, you will need a one-time only special issuance medical.”

What’s in the bill?
Pilots will still need to visit their personal physician at least once every four years and provide an FAA-developed checklist of issues to be discussed during the visit: “Both you and your physician will need to sign the checklist saying that you discussed the items on it. You will then need to make a note of the visit and include the checklist in your logbook. You do not need to report the outcome of the visit or file any paperwork with the FAA unless you are specifically requested to do so.

“You also will need to take online training in aeromedical factors every two years. The training will be offered free of charge.

“The legislation considerably expands the number of USA pilots and aircraft who will be eligible to fly under third-class medical reforms.”

Fuller detail is available on the web sites of the (USA) AOPA and the EAA

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Involved in commercial aviation since 1966 most of my circa 24,000 hours have been accrued in management and the training of pilots on three continents. Starting off on Auster and DH82 aircraft, I believe the basics thus learned have stood me by in an incident free career. I can proudly say that none of my protégés have been involved in any major incidents, although regrettably two were killed over the Sudan, having been shot in separate incidents. My interest in, as publisher and contributor, has been to foster aviation in Australia which mainly at the hands of Government and CASA has seen a drastic decline at a time when it could be a leader in providing trained pilots globally.