December 9, 2015 - The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Wednesday passed S. 571, better known as the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2), bringing significant third-class medical reform one big step closer to reality.
“As we’ve often said, working through the legislative route is not an easy or quick task, but we are very pleased that this progress has been made and the bill now goes to the full Senate,” said EAA Chairman and CEO Jack J. Pelton. “It took long hours of work by EAA and AOPA and efforts from Sens. Jim Inhofe and Joe Manchin, their staff, and the other co-sponsors of the bill to get to that point. While all legislation goes through twists and turns, the key point is that pilots will be able to avoid the complexity and expense that is inherent in the current third-class medical certification process. We will continue our work to push this legislation forward, with the continuing support of EAA members who have made their voices heard to their elected representatives on this matter.”
The committee passed the measure on an overwhelming bipartisan vote on December 9. The bill will now go to the full Senate where it has strong bipartisan support with 70 co-sponsors, hopefully for a vote before the holiday recess. The House will also have to pass the bill before it can go to the president to be signed into law. PBOR2 has 151 cosponsors in the House.
Under PBOR2, most pilots who have held a valid third-class medical, either regular or special issuance, within the 10 years preceding the legislation’s enactment would never need to get another FAA medical exam. The rule would apply to pilots flying VFR or IFR in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds and carrying up to five passengers at altitudes below 18,000 feet and speeds up to 250 knots.
For pilots whose medical certificate lapsed more than 10 years before the legislation is enacted and those who have never applied for and received a medical certificate, a one-time medical certification will be required. After a pilot has been medically certified once, either through the regular or special-issuance processes, he or she will also be able to fly indefinitely without needing to go through the FAA medical certification process again.
Pilots who develop certain medical conditions—including a small list of specific cardiac, mental health, or neurological conditions—will have to get a special issuance medical one time only.
After pilots have met these requirements, they will need to visit their personal physician once every four years for a medical exam. Pilots will need to fill out a form and provide it to the doctor performing the exam. The form includes a short questionnaire for pilots as well as a list of items the doctor must include in the examination. Following the exam, both the physician and the pilot must sign the form. The pilot must make a note of the visit and keep the signed form in his or her logbook.
While the form will include some of the items that are now part of the third-class medical exam, it will not require the doctor to make a “pass/fail” judgment and no information about the exam needs to be provided to the FAA unless it is specifically requested.
“A pilot along with that person’s individual doctor, who knows the patient best, now can have direct freedom and responsibility for best managing health decisions,” Pelton said. “The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 frees pilots to work with their personal physicians to manage their own health, wellness, and fitness to fly.”
In addition to the medical exam, pilots will be required to take a free online education course on aeromedical factors every two years. The course will be designed to increase awareness and understanding of medical factors that can affect a pilot’s fitness to fly.
Under the bill, the FAA will have a year from the date the legislation becomes law to produce a final rule reflecting the legislation’s provisions. If the final rule is not ready within one year of the bill’s enactment, pilots will be allowed to fly under the guidelines set out in the legislation without facing FAA enforcement action. The legislation also directs the FAA to streamline the special issuance medical process and identify additional medical conditions that AMEs can issue medical certificates for without requiring the pilot to go through the special issuance medical process.
“EAA members have told us that this is their top priority for our advocacy team,” Pelton said. “Is it a perfect bill with everything that we could have wanted? Of course not. Legislation rarely is. It is, however, broad relief and reform for the vast majority of individuals who want to fly for fun and personal transportation. It is the furthest advancement ever made for this essential aeromedical reform.”
For more information about the legislation and how it pertains to you, visit EAA’s frequently asked questions regarding third-class medical reform.
An archived webcast of the committee session can be found here.