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Medical Reform Rules on Track

Meet the FAA Administrator

By James Wynbrandt

July 29, 2016 - The FAA is on track to draft new medical certification rules for pilots within the 180 days mandated by Congress in the FAA funding extension signed into law earlier this month, Agency Chief Michael Huerta said here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh yesterday. “We know you are eager to get the rule in place, and we are committed to getting it done on that timeline,” Huerta told attendees at the annual Meet the Administrator Forum. (The agency has a second six months to implement the rules.)

In concert with EAA and other GA organizations, the FAA had already been working on medical reform, therefore, “a lot of work has already been done” on writing revised rules, he said. The new rule will eliminate the third-class medical certificate requirement for many pilots.

Huerta also highlighted several current FAA initiatives aimed at making regulations “more efficient and effective” for the GA community, based on a new regulatory approach. “The underlying philosophy we’ve adopted at the FAA, is how do we incorporate risk-based decision-making into our regulatory process,” he said. “The [current] process is designed to be prescriptive: You shall do it this way. A risk-based approach requires us to assess risk along a safety continuum, and ask, ‘Are we improving safety, or standing in the way because of some sort of process?’”

Huerta pointed to the agency’s proposals for revising certification standards for production (Part 23) GA aircraft, announced earlier this year, as an example. “Instead of rules on specific technologies, the new framework defines safety outcomes we want to achieve,” which will encourage innovation and make certification “less costly and time consuming,” he said.

Huerta also cited recent collaborative efforts with industry and GA organizations — for example, approvals for angle of attack indicators and the EAA/Dynon STC for non-TSO’d glass panel installations in Part 23 aircraft — as models for improving safety. (See EAA.org/AccessibleSafetySTC for more information.)

“Safety is the common goal that unites the FAA with every level and sector of the aviation industry, and collaboration is absolutely essential” to meet that objective, he said.

The “Got Data?” initiative introduced at Sun ’n Fun, new test standards announced last month for the private pilot written exam, and Huerta’s recent approval of a plan to restructure and “flatten” FAA over the next 12 months based on management “function rather than geography,” were among other advances he highlighted.

Huerta has previously urged pilots to equip with ADS-B Out in anticipation of the looming 2020 mandate, and yesterday touted the FAA rebate program, announced last month, which offers $500 each for up to 20,000 single-engine aircraft owners.

The list of initiatives and efforts underscored a quote of Huerta’s that Jack Pelton, EAA CEO and chairman of the board, cited in welcoming the administrator to the forum: “The FAA can no longer afford to move at the pace of government, when aviation moves at the pace of innovation.”


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