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From the Editor

By Patrick Panzera, EAA 555743, ppanzera@eaa.org

Pat Panzera
Experimenter editor Pat Panzera preparing for a checkride in a Schweizer 2-33 at the Central California Soaring Club.

In last month’s editorial (LSA Might Not Be the Only Solution to an AWOL Medical Certificate), I made a case for becoming a motor glider pilot. One of several reasons for this suggestion was that there is no medical certificate requirement other than the glider self-endorsement. A few people took me to task, misunderstanding that I wasn’t speaking of sport pilot requirements, so I’d like to take this opportunity to clear the air a little.

While my article was clearly about glider regulations, several readers felt the need to remind me that one cannot fly an LSA with a driver’s license as medical verification if the FAA has denied or otherwise revoked a medical. While this is true, it only applies to sport pilots and not glider pilots. My editorial was about flying gliders, not LSA.

One person wrote, “Inspirational, informative, ways to cheat the system to be able to fly!” Although I’m flattered that my article was considered “inspirational,” in no way could it be considered “cheating” to take advantage of a rule that’s been in position as long as I can remember, potentially longer than I’ve been alive. Just as it’s not considered cheating to forgo your next medical exam and become a sport pilot, even if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, it’s not cheating to consider becoming a glider pilot (or even an ultralight pilot) in the event you lose your medical.

Another person took issue with the regs I cited, specifically FAR 61.103. His preference was FAR 61.23, which I’ve quoted below. Unfortunately he didn’t read the exceptions, a common mistake when trying to apply the regs.

Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
PART 61—CERTIFICATION: PILOTS, FLIGHT INSTRUCTORS, AND GROUND INSTRUCTORS 
Subpart A—General

§ 61.23   Medical certificates: Requirement and duration.
(a) Operations requiring a medical certificate. Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, a person—
(1) Must hold a first-class medical certificate when exercising the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate;
(2) Must hold at least a second-class medical certificate when exercising the privileges of a commercial pilot certificate; or
(3) Must hold at least a third-class medical certificate—
(i) When exercising the privileges of a private pilot certificate;
(ii) When exercising the privileges of a recreational pilot certificate;
(iii) When exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate;
(iv) When exercising the privileges of a flight instructor certificate, except for a flight instructor certificate with a glider category rating or sport pilot rating, if the person is acting as pilot in command or is serving as a required flight crewmember; or
(v) Except for a glider category rating or a balloon class rating, prior to taking a practical test that is performed in an aircraft for a certificate or rating at the recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate level.

(b) Operations not requiring a medical certificate. A person is not required to hold a valid medical certificate—
(1) When exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate while seeking—
(i) A sport pilot certificate with glider or balloon privileges; or
(ii) A pilot certificate with a glider category rating or balloon class rating;
(2) When exercising the privileges of a sport pilot certificate with privileges in a glider or balloon;
(3) When exercising the privileges of a pilot certificate with a glider category or balloon class rating;
(4) When exercising the privileges of a flight instructor certificate with—
(i) A sport pilot rating in a glider or balloon; or
(ii) A glider category rating;

And finally, I was chastised for cavalierly telling people who were not medically fit that it was okay to go flying again. The reader reminded me that § 61.53 (b) still requires that persons who are not required to hold a valid medical certificate (glider pilots, for example) “shall not act as pilot in command, or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner.”

While I knew this when I wrote the editorial and didn’t feel it was necessary to quote it, perhaps that was an oversight on my part. This same person made a good point that perhaps you and your doctor should decide together if you are medically fit to operate an aircraft if you no longer qualify for an FAA medical certificate.

I recently passed a second class medical, yet I didn’t act as pilot-in-command for the first 35 days, since I couldn’t seem to shake a nagging sinus infection that had me a little off my game. I don't need the certificate, or the driver's license, or the self endorsement to tell me I'm fit or not fit to fly. I have this thing called common sense.

However, if I lose my medical because my blood pressure is higher than the FAA allows, and I don’t feel like jumping through the hoops it would take to get it back, I'll stop flying GA since I'm a law-abiding person. But if I feel good enough to fly, I'll gladly fly a glider, potentially one with an engine attached.

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