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Strong, Positive Response to EAA/AOPA Third-Class Medical Exemption Request

 

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March 22, 2012 - Early response to Tuesday's joint EAA/AOPA announcement, regarding their request to FAA for a third-class medical certificate exemption for those flying recreationally, has been extremely strong and positive. The two organizations submitted the request that would, if granted, increase the level of safety and significantly reduce a substantial economic and regulatory burden for pilots who fly recreationally.

"If this waiver could somehow be passed, it has the single most important potential for rejuvenating GA in this country," wrote Larry Stencel, EAA 115011, a pilot for more than 40 years, in an e-mail to EAA following announcement of the exemption request.

"Thank you EAA & AOPA, I hope the FAA responds favorably to this petition as it just makes sense," wrote Paul Weiss, who commented to EAA regarding the exemption request via Facebook.

These reactions were indicative of the early reaction by EAA members to the proposal.

Currently, FAA regulations require all pilots to hold at least a third-class medical certificate to exercise the privileges of a private or recreational certificate. EAA and AOPA are asking the FAA for an exemption to that rule, which would give pilots who fly recreationally the option of getting a third-class medical or, instead, participating in a recurrent online education program that will teach them how to self-asses their fitness to fly.

The education program will cover aeromedical factors and exceed the training presently mandated by the FAA. Participating pilots would also be required to hold a valid driver's license and conduct a meaningful self-assessment prior to flight. The self-assessment required in the exemption will be similar to what pilots do now between AME visits. The difference is that pilots will have a higher level of knowledge to do the self-assessment after completion of the required education program.

The requested exemption would help to mitigate the increased risk inherent in transitioning to unfamiliar and sometimes distinctly different aircraft, which is the only current available alternative to the FAA's third-class medical.

"This initiative will preserve the freedom to fly by reducing a significant hurdle in the lives of many pilots and entrants into general aviation while maintaining or enhancing safety," said EAA President/CEO Rod Hightower. "It would also greatly increase the number of aircraft available for pilots flying strictly for recreation and encourage pilots to continue to fly in aircraft in which they are already familiar."

This exemption request has been built upon substantial evidence obtained over the past 20 years, most recently proven through the successful medical safety standards allowed under the sport pilot certificate, which currently utilizes the driver's license medical standard in lieu of an FAA medical certificate.

In the seven years since the sport pilot driver's license medical standard was established, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not attributed a single accident in that category to medical deficiency. Interestingly, the majority of accidents involving aircraft eligible under sport pilot is classified by the NTSB as instructional or transition flights. The jury is in: The sport pilot medical requirement works. The EAA/AOPA exemption request builds on seven years of positive safety data from using driver's license medical certification with sport pilots, and reduces transition-related safety issues by primarily keeping pilots in familiar aircraft.

The AOPA/EAA-requested exemption would be allowed for use in the particular size of aircraft (single engine, 180 hp, fixed gear…) and types of operations (day, VMC, one passenger, not for-hire…) typically classified as recreational flight.

"Our petition offers substantial economic savings to pilots and the U.S. government," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "A conservative estimate shows a savings of $241 million for pilots and $11 million to the federal government over 10 years."

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