Sept. 8, 2014

Eleven U.S. senators recently added their voices to the growing chorus of lawmakers and industry stakeholders who are urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to act swiftly upon guidelines proposed by the FAA to reform the medical certification process for many general aviation (GA) pilots.

“As cosponsors of S.2103, the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, we urge the administration to carry out an expedited review of the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modernize third-class medical requirements for small-aircraft pilots, based on the lessons learned from the highly-successful sport pilot rule,” reads the Sept. 2 letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget. “We urge that the review be completed within one month so that the proposal can be released for public comments as soon as possible.”

Read the letter to Foxx and Donovan. (PDF)

In a March 2012 joint appeal to the FAA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) petitioned the agency to reform the third-class medical requirement and expand the number of pilots eligible to fly without a medical certificate under certain conditions, similar to those implemented under the nearly decade-old sport pilot rule.

The FAA announced in April that the agency planned to address the matter through the rulemaking process, and submitted the NPRM for DOT review, though little apparent progress has been made since then.

A coalition of aviation groups, including NBAA, sent a similar request to Foxx and Donovan last month. The groups noted that 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, as pilots are already required to do every flight – would not only maintain the current high level of safety, but also substantially cut costs to pilots and the FAA. Review “NBAA, Others Call for Action on Third-Class Medical Exemption.”

The Senate’s efforts compliment previous letters from House GA Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-6-MO) and caucus member Todd Rokita (R-4-IN), and Senate GA Caucus co-chair Mark Begich (D-AK). The latest appeal further noted that GA stakeholders have waited nearly three years for action on the petition, sufficient time for the FAA to “thoroughly analyz[e]” the matter.

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

Read Begich’s letter. (PDF)

“In recent years, general aviation has suffered significant setbacks, and our country risks losing its position as a global leader in GA,” the senators wrote. “Tens of thousands of GA pilots are giving up flying. The loss of these women and men in general aviation has a significant negative impact on economic conditions and job opportunities in sectors ranging from manufacturing and agriculture to tourism.”

The Sept. 2 letter was sent by Sens. John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT), and signed by Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Pryor (D-AR), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).