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Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2: Working to Advance Third-Class Medical Reform

July 24, 2015 - EAA member and pilot Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) introduced the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2) last winter with bipartisan support and to considerable praise by the pilot community. EAA and AOPA spent months working with the senator’s team developing the legislation, and EAA is working tirelessly to pass PBOR2 through the House and Senate.

A companion PBOR2 bill was introduced in the House by EAA member and pilot Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri).

Most pilots think of PBOR2 as the bill to reform the third-class medical certification process, and indeed, it incorporates much of the aeromedical reform from the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) in the previous Congress.

While a main provision of PBOR2 is to eliminate the third-class medical requirement for much of the sport and recreational aviation community, the bill does much more to protect due process for airmen under enforcement cases as well as provide liability protection to designees and volunteer pilots.

The details

PBOR2 would allow a pilot to fly aircraft up to 6,000 pounds carrying up to five passengers with a valid driver’s license in lieu of a medical certificate.

As negotiations have labored through the Senate, compromise necessary to gain support has resulted in some minor conditions being placed on the original proposal, but the concept remains largely intact.

Passage of PBOR2 would undoubtedly provide significant relief from the costs and hassle of medical certification to the majority of recreational fliers while maintaining the current level of safety.

PBOR2 also extends to all certificate holders the same due process rights for pilots gained in PBOR1, and seeks to increase transparency in the investigation process for airmen facing enforcement and certificate actions.

Part of this effort includes ensuring that air traffic control tapes, radar tracks, and other relevant data is available to airmen to help defend themselves in enforcement actions. The bill also strives to improve the accuracy, prioritization, and availability of NOTAMs.

One often overlooked but potentially significant area is the introduction of liability protections for designees, such as aviation medical examiners, pilot examiners, and designated airworthiness representatives. Under the legislation, these designees, who perform uniquely federal functions on behalf of the FAA, would gain the same liability protections afforded FAA employees.

Finally, PBOR2 acts as a Good Samaritan Law for volunteer pilots, protecting them from liability as long as they are following appropriate procedures and regulations. This is an important consideration for nonprofit organizations dependent on volunteers who provide free transportation for the public benefit.

The status

EAA has been working closely with other aviation organizations and members of both the House and Senate to advance PBOR2. Most of the immediate activity is currently in the Senate, where initial efforts to move the legislation as a stand-alone bill met resistance in the transportation committee.

The current approach seeks to amend the highway bill about to be debated in the Senate with language mirroring PBOR2. Longtime GA advocates Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) filed the amendment. The Senate will soon decide which of the many amendments to the highway bill will be allowed a vote with hopes that the Manchin-Boozman amendment will be among them. There is no guarantee of making it to a floor vote, but PBOR2 has strong bipartisan support from more than half of the Senate.

A call to action

Just before AirVenture, EAA Chairman Jack J. Pelton asked EAA members to personally contact their senators and urge them to cosponsor PBOR2 and support aeromedical reform. EAA members responded enthusiastically and continue to do so.

Since EAA’s call to action, 19 additional senators added their support to the bill bringing the total to 52 as of this writing. It is crucial that we all keep up the pressure and continue to fight for more support by reaching out personally to our senate offices.

The highway bill is currently the subject of large political forces having nothing to do with PBOR2, and it is unclear what direction the legislation might take or the timetable for a vote. At the moment an agreement before the July 31 highway funding expiration seems like a tall order, and Congress adjourns for a five-week recess at nearly the same time. But even as AirVenture is in full-swing EAA is working to build support and foster any avenue for success.

AirVenture attendees wanting to know the very latest on PBOR2 and the bill’s progress should plan to attend Sen. Inhofe’s forum this morning at 10:00 in Pavilion 1. A panel of legislative and legal experts from EAA and AOPA will participate.

Meanwhile, EAA urges all pilots with an interest in furthering third-class medical reform to reach out to their senators and urge them to cosponsor S. 571, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2.
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