Aug. 25, 2014

NBAA recently joined with other aviation stakeholders in calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to expedite its review of an FAA notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to reform the third-class medical certification requirement.

The letter noted that by removing the medical requirement for some noncommercial flight operations, and allowing pilots with a current driver’s license to fly after self-assessing their airworthiness – a process already required of pilots before every flight – the exemption would not only maintain the current high level of safety, but also substantially cut costs to pilots and the FAA.

“The FAA’s medical certification system has evolved into an onerous and costly one which has questionable, if any, benefit to general aviation pilots,” read the Aug. 15 letter, which was sent to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and signed by leaders of seven aviation groups, including NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Conservative estimates indicate that medical certification reform would result in an annual savings of more than $1 million to the FAA.

“In addition,” the letter continued, “industry estimates that in 2012 alone, more than $140 million was spent by applicants to obtain medical certificates” – money that instead might have been spent on proficiency training, or the installation of advanced safety equipment and avionics.

Read the letter calling on DOT to complete its review of the NPRM. (PDF)

In March 2012, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) filed a joint petition with the FAA to expand the number of pilots eligible to fly without a medical certificate. The exemption would essentially expand the scope of the 10-year-old sport pilot rule to include daytime VFR flights for noncommercial purposes in single-engine aircraft of up to 180 hp.

Rather than acting directly on that petition, however, the FAA announced in April that it would address the matter through the rulemaking process, and submitted the NPRM for DOT review.

“The general aviation community has waited more than two years for a practical solution exempting certain pilots from third-class medical certification requirements,” said Dick Doubrava, NBAA vice president, government affairs. “NBAA is pleased to add our voice to others urging these agencies to move forward on these reform measures.”

The industry letter builds upon similar calls for the DOT to complete its review of the NPRM by the middle of September, including a joint letter from Reps. Todd Rokita (R-4-IN), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-6-MO) to Foxx.

Read Graves’ and Rokita’s letter to Foxx. (PDF)

In a separate letter, Senate GA Caucus co-chair Mark Begich (D-AK) termed the third-class medical requirement “an unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle” for some pilots.

Read Begich’s letter. (PDF)

In addition to Bolen, the letter was also signed by AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker; EAA Chairman Jack Pelton; Pete Bunce, chairman and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI) President and CEO Matt Zuccaro; Andrew Moore, executive director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) and National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President and CEO Thomas Hendricks.