Dec. 16, 2014

As the year draws to a close, bipartisan support continues to build for congressional legislation to remove the third-class medical requirement for operating a variety of general aviation (GA) aircraft.

Introduced last December by House GA Caucus Co-Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-6-MO) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-4-IN), the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013 (H.R.3708), would allow pilots to operate certain single-engine aircraft without obtaining a third-class medical certificate, under visual flight rules, and as long as they otherwise met certification requirements. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) sponsored an identical bill (S.2103) in the Senate.

“We’re working closely with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association [AOPA] and other aviation stakeholders in moving forward with these revisions to the current third-class medical process,” said Dick Doubrava, NBAA vice president, government affairs. “Although we understand the FAA is crafting a proposal for the industry to view at some point, we are also making sure the House and Senate remain focused on the issue.”

As of early December, 163 House lawmakers had co-sponsored the GAPPA bill, with 19 senators adding their names to the companion Senate bill. Ten congressional representatives added their names to the bill in November, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-8-MD), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Steve Womack (R-3-AR). So far in December, Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-3-MN), Tim Murphy (R-18-PA) and Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) signed on as the latest sponsors for the measure.

Both the House and Senate bills add legislative impetus to a March 2012 joint petition by the Experimental Aircraft Association and AOPA to compel the FAA to overhaul third-class medical certification requirements.

After essentially tabling the petition for close to two years, the FAA announced last April that it would address the matter through the rulemaking process, and submitted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for review by the Department of Transportation. No further action has been taken on the proposal to this point.

While both measures have yet to be reported for House and Senate floor action during the current legislative session ending later this month, Doubrava noted the strong level of bipartisan support adds momentum for these issues to be considered by the incoming 114th Congress should the bills not reach the floor this session.