October 17, 2013 - New AOPA President Mark Baker invited EAA Chairman Jack Pelton to appear on stage during the big airport pancake breakfast at AOPA's Summit at Meacham Field in Fort Worth last Saturday. The two aviation association leaders, who have known each other for several years, emphasized that AOPA and EAA will work together to tackle many of the biggest issues facing pilots and airplane owners.
At the top of the list for both Baker and Pelton is to continue to urge the FAA to take action on the third-class medical exemption proposal the associations jointly made to the FAA more than a year ago. The exemption would allow pilots to fly day VFR in basic fixed gear, single-engine airplanes using a valid driver's license as evidence of medical fitness. The proposal would also create a mandatory online aeromedical course that pilots would need to study, and then pass an exam, in order to qualify.
"The cost and complications of the third-class medical are keeping too many pilots from flying," Pelton said. "We now have solid evidence that pilots of LSA who are flying with a driver's license as medical certification have no degradation in safety. It's time for the FAA to move on our petition and make flying less costly and less of a hassle for many with no added risk."
Baker echoed Pelton's remarks, pointing out that the government, and particularly the FAA, is under enormous budget pressure and could save millions by adopting the medical exemption request. Pilots, he noted, would also save huge amounts in the cost of exams and often unnecessary medical tests.
The two leaders also talked about the urgent need to stop the decline in the pilot population and Baker praised EAA's Young Eagles program as one of the most effective tools in introducing young people to flying.
For his part, Pelton thanked AOPA for its decades of effective advocacy in Washington and promised the two associations will work hand in hand to help resolve critical problems such as the transition to unleaded avgas and in finding ways to lower the cost of new airplanes by simplifying certification rules.
Finally, the two association heads told the gathering of pilots to expect more collaboration on regional events, including EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.