View AC 68-1 advisory circular here.
Here are answers to some of the major questions EAA members are asking about third class medical reform:
What is the current status of medical reform?
The President signed the medical provisions of the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2) as part of a short-term FAA funding bill on July 15 (H.R. 636, now Public Law 114-190). While the bill is now law, the provisions of the bill do not take effect for pilots until they are written into FAA regulations. The FAA has released the final rule that implements the law. The new regulations will go into effect May 1, 2017.
Can the FAA rulemaking process interfere with the intent of the law?
The legislation is very prescriptive, limiting the “wiggle room” the Agency has for interpretation. Additionally, the FAA has released the implementing regulations as a “final rule,” meaning there is no public comment period associated with the release. To do this, the FAA stated that no aspect of the law was changed in writing the regulations. Nevertheless, EAA is closely reviewing the rulemaking package to ensure the intent of Congress is properly reflected.
I’m concerned about the statement my doctor will need to sign. What is EAA doing to Help?
The legislation requires a board-certified physician to sign the following statement for the pilot every four years: ‘‘I certify that I discussed all items on [the examination checklist detailed in the bill] with the individual during my examination […] I certify that I am not aware of any medical condition that, as presently treated, could interfere with the individual’s ability to safely operate an aircraft.” EAA will be working with its Aeromedical and Legal Advisory Councils to provide members with resources to help their doctors understand the basis and limits of this statement. Remember: a doctor’s refusal to sign this statement does not constitute denial of a medical, as a denial on a third-class medical exam would.
What about my insurance?
EAA cannot speak for insurance companies. However, it is worth noting that sport pilots flying under “driver’s license medical” rules have been insured for more than a decade.
Who will benefit from this reform?
Anyone who flies with a third-class medical certificate can benefit from this reform. In fact, almost anyone who has held a regular or special issuance third-class medical certificate within the 10 years preceding July 15, 2016, will never again need to visit an aviation medical examiner (AME). If you’ve never held a third-class medical certificate, you will need to get a medical certificate one time only. If your regular or special issuance medical certificate lapsed more than 10 years before the legislation is enacted, you will need to get a medical certificate one time only. And if you develop certain cardiac, neurological, or psychological conditions, you will need a one-time-only special issuance medical.
What’s in the law?
You will need to visit your personal physician at least once every four years and provide an FAA-developed checklist of issues to be discussed during the visit. Both you and your physician will need to sign the checklist saying that you discussed the items on it. You will then need to make a note of the visit and include the checklist in your logbook. You do not need to report the outcome of the visit or file any paperwork with the FAA unless you are specifically requested to do so.
You also will need to take online training in aeromedical factors every two years. The training will be offered free of charge.
Pilots flying under the new rules will be allowed to operate aircraft that weigh up to 6,000 pounds, carry up to five passengers plus the pilot in command, fly at altitudes below 18,000 feet, and at speeds of up to 250 knots. Pilots, if appropriately rated, can fly VFR or IFR in qualified aircraft.
How does this legislation compare with the petition for medical reform that EAA and AOPA filed jointly back in 2012?
The legislation greatly expands the number of pilots and aircraft who will be eligible to fly under third-class medical reform. The table below compares some of the key points.
What will be in the checklist for the medical exam?
The checklist will have two parts—questions to be answered by the pilot in advance of the exam and a list of items for the doctor to include in the examination. The questions will include identifying information like name and address, date of birth, a short medical history and list of current medications, and information about whether you’ve ever had an FAA medical certificate denied, suspended, or revoked.
The list of items for the doctor to cover in the examination are now part of the third-class medical exam and are typical to those found in any routine physical. These items include:
• Head, face, neck, scalp • Nose, sinuses, mouth, throat • Ears and eardrums
• Eyes • Lungs and chest • Heart
• Vascular system • Abdomen and viscera • Anus
• Skin • GU system • Upper and lower extremities
• Spine, other musculo-skeletal • Body marks, scars, tattoos • Lymphatics
• Neurologic • Psychiatric • General systemic
• Hearing • Vision • Blood pressure and pulse
And anything else the physician in his or her medical judgment considers necessary.
The doctor will have to indicate that he or she has made the necessary checks, and both the pilot and doctor will need to sign the form.
Do I have to go to an AME for the general medical exam required every four years? How does the FAA know that I complied with that rule?
No, you can go to any primary care physician for your exam; you do not need to visit an AME. To demonstrate compliance, just enter the visit in your logbook. There’s nothing to report to the FAA unless specifically requested.
Will this reform change the rules regarding medications?
No. The rules regarding medications will remain unchanged. So pilots who take a medication that the FAA disallows will still be unable to fly. Because the FAA does not publish a list of disallowed medications, please contact EAA membership services if you have questions about a medication you are taking or that your doctor has recommended.
I understand I will need to get a one-time special issuance medical if I have certain medical conditions. What are those conditions?
Those conditions are described in the federal aviation regulations and are limited to an established medical history of the following:
Cardiovascular: myocardial infarction (heart attack); coronary heart disease that has required treatment, cardiac valve replacement, and heart replacement.
Neurological: epilepsy; a transient loss of control of the nervous system; and disturbances of consciousness without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause.
Mental health: personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts; manifested or may reasonably be expected to manifest delusions, hallucinations, grossly bizarre or disorganized behavior, or other commonly accepted symptoms of psychosis; severe bipolar disorder; and substance dependence within the previous two years as defined in FAR 67.307(4).
Pilots who suffer from a clinically diagnosed mental health or neurological condition will be required to certify every two years that they are under the care of a state licensed medical specialist for that condition. According to the FAA rule, this certification will be incorporated into the medical education course process.
How does this help me if I’m on special issuance?
If you currently hold a special issuance third-class medical certificate, or have held one within the 10 years preceding enactment of the legislation, and do not suffer from or develop one of the specific cardiac, neurological, or mental health conditions identified as exceptions, you will never again need to go through the special issuance process. That means you will no longer need to repeat expensive and time-consuming medical tests and submit complex paperwork to the FAA in order to fly. Obtaining a special issuance medical certificate can cost thousands of dollars—that’s money you won’t have to keep spending year after year. Even if you have one of the listed conditions, you will need to get a special issuance one time only—again a savings of thousands of dollars and countless hours of your time.
What if my regular or special issuance medical expires before the law takes effect?
If your regular or special issuance medical certificate expires before May 1, 2017, you may choose to renew it in order to keep flying. Whether or not you choose to renew your medical certificate to cover the gap period, you will be allowed to fly as soon as the new rules take effect, provided your medical expired within the 10-year window preceding enactment of the legislation.
What if my medical becomes more than 10 years old before the law takes effect?
The clock on the 10-year look-back started on July 15, 2016, the day the legislation was enacted, not when its provisions take effect.. So, July 15, 2016, is the date that counts when it comes to determining whether or not your certificate was valid within the 10-year window. If the last time you held a valid medical was more than 10 years, you will need to go through the medical certification process one more time in order to fly under the new regulations.
Why were there compromises on the reform language?
Sen. Jim Inhofe and his staff had to make a choice: Make compromises that would allow medical reform to move forward and help hundreds of thousands of pilots or allow this latest attempt at medical reform to die. A number of lawmakers made it absolutely clear that they would not support the legislation as originally introduced. The compromises Inhofe arrived at represent an improvement in the medical certification process that had sufficient support in Congress to keep the legislation alive.
Will this affect me if I still want to fly as a sport pilot?
Not at all. You may still fly light-sport aircraft with at least a sport pilot certificate and a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third-class medical certificate.
Isn’t the requirement to have had a medical certificate within the past 10 years only a move to a 10-year renewal of a medical?
No. If you are a private pilot and have held a valid medical certificate (regular or special issuance) within 10 years preceding July 15, 2016, the date the bill was signed into law, you may never have to visit an AME again. You will simply have to take an online medical education course every two years and visit your personal physician once every four years and note that visit in your logbook. No requirement exists to report the outcome of the visit to the FAA.
What are the requirements for the online course and how much will it cost?
You will have to take the online education course every two years in order to remain eligible to fly under the provisions of the legislation. The beauty of the online education course is that you’ll be able to do it anywhere and anytime you have internet access. That means you can do it at home, on your lunch break at work, at night, on the weekend—any time and place that works for you. The online education course will be available free of charge to all pilots from the AOPA Air Safety Institute.