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EAA, AOPA Announce Plan to Make 'Driver's License Medical' Available to Much Larger Pool of Pilots

Sept. 24, 2011, Hartford, Conn. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) today unveiled plans that, if successful, could greatly expand the number of pilots who could use the driver’s license medical standard currently available only to sport pilots.

Delivering the keynote address on the final day of the AOPA Aviation Summit, the presidents of AOPA and EAA, Craig L. Fuller and Rod Hightower, respectively, said the two groups are working together to finalize a request to create an exemption allowing pilots flying recreationally to use the driver’s license medical standard. In order to ensure and even enhance safety, pilots would be required to complete a comprehensive course on aeromedical factors and self-certification.

“We have more than five years’ experience now with the Sport Pilot certificate and the driver’s license medical standard,” said Hightower. “In that time, we have not had a single medical incapacitation accident. The standard works.”

“Furthermore, our petition would enhance safety by requiring initial and recurrent training about health awareness and medical self-certification for any pilot choosing to use the driver’s license standard,” added Fuller. “It will provide data that can be used to continually refine and evaluate the effectiveness of the standard.”

EAA and AOPA plan to file their request for exemption after the first of the year. Under the proposed exemption, pilots holding recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificates who only fly recreationally could use the same driver’s license medical self-certification standard currently available to sport pilots.

In addition to holding a driver’s license as proof of adequate health, a pilot would also be required to participate in a recurring online education program that would reinforce and expand a pilot’s understanding of aeromedical factors and self-certification requirements. EAA and AOPA believe such an education program, developed by the Air Safety Institute in consultation with AOPA’s Board of Aeromedical Advisors and EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, would provide an equivalent level of safety as a third class medical.

As envisioned, the exemption would be limited by aircraft size and type of operations – for example, a single engine aircraft, with 180 hp or less, 4 seats, and fixed gear and operations limited to day, VFR, with one passenger.  That would greatly expand the number of aircraft a pilot might fly while operating under a driver’s license medical standard.

EAA and AOPA estimate that the exemption could save pilots who currently fly with medical certificates nearly $250 million over 10 years, and save the federal government $11 million over the same period.

EAA and AOPA believe the exemption they plan to request is the next logical step in the journey begun when the FAA permitted sport pilots to use the driver’s license medical standard. Further, the associations believe the exemption will maintain or enhance aviation safety by improving knowledge and awareness of aeromedical factors through recurrent education for all pilots utilizing the exemption, and by encouraging pilots to continue flying familiar aircraft.

EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world’s most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts.  EAA’s 170,000 members and 1,000 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft.

For more than 70 years, AOPA has protected general aviation pilots’ freedom to fly, providing value, service, and education to a membership that currently numbers more than 400,000.

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