EAA Efforts Contribute To Improved Medical Certification Processes
March 2, 2007 — EAA's ongoing efforts on airman medical certification issues have helped create significant improvement in the FAA special issuance medical certification process. It was not very long ago that a huge backlog of special issuance medical certificate applications meant waits of six months or more.
EAAers should be heartened to know that they've played a role in reducing the average processing time for a special issuance medical certificate to 24 days.
Your voices were heard during Marion Blakey's Meet the Administrator Q & A session at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005. The Administrator heard from several members about long waits for special issuance medical certificates, leading her to comment, "It's time to do an assessment. We will be taking a look at both the procedures and the resources."
In December 2005, EAA's Aeromedical Council submitted a list of recommendations to the FAA. Within three months the council was in Washington, D.C., discussing those recommendations with senior FAA staff.
While in Washington. D.C. recently, EAA President Tom Poberezny and senior members of EAA's government affairs staff met with Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Fred Tilton to discuss ongoing certification issues, as well as follow up on those EAA Aeromedical Council recommendations. Dr. Tilton reviewed each of EAA's recommendations and reported what FAA has been doing in response.
"Our visit to Washington provided an excellent opportunity to review the progress FAA has made on medical certification issues," Poberezny said. "The agency has worked hard to address these matters and we applaud them for their efforts."
Along with the good news on special issuance medical certificates, Dr. Tilton reported:
- FAA is moving toward providing certain clinics and Airmen Medical Examiners (AMEs) the authority to review special issuance certificates and make recommendations to FAA's Aerospace Medical Certification Office in Oklahoma City. FAA would then expedite its review based on those recommendations. While this falls short of EAA's "Super AME" proposal that would allow approval authority to individual AMEs, it represents progress toward preventing future backlogs.
- Implementing electronic medical records has led to permanent integration of Regional Flight Surgeons into the medical review process. The regional flight surgeons are now part of the Oklahoma City workflow process and can be summoned to alleviate backlogs. Regional flight surgeons also now process medicals from pilots in their regions.
- EAA also confirmed that extending the duration of third and first class medical certificates, announced by Administrator Marion Blakey at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2006, is moving forward. A notice of proposed rulemaking, which would extend the duration of a third-class medical certificate to five years for pilots under age 40 and one full year for first-class medicals for pilots under age 40, awaits her final approval.
- Medical self-certification via a valid driver's license for Recreational Pilots, a proposal that EAA first made nearly 20 years ago and has supported since, is unlikely to move forward soon. EAA expects that current and future data gathered from sport pilots and other pilots operating under the privileges of a sport pilot, who use a driver's license in lieu of a medical, will support such a system for Recreational Pilot certificates as well.