Talk Before Applying for that Medical

A story in Sport Aviation raised many questions from readers. The writer had been told that he had a disqualifying medical condition. He then went on to build an E-LSA that he could fly as a Sport Pilot using his driver’s license as medical qualification.

Many readers jumped to the conclusion that the writer had been denied a medical certificate. If that had been the case, he would not be eligible to fly as a Sport Pilot using his driver’s license.

But the story never said he was denied. It said he was told by the doc he didn’t qualify. That is a very different issue. Any wise pilot will talk to a medical expert before they ever fill out the FAA Form 8500, the application for a medical certificate.

Once the medical application is submitted—and you can only do it online now—you can’t take it back. There are only three possible results after the application is in the system and those are approval, denial or deferral. And the deferral can only be for a limited time while additional information is collected.

The actual physical exam is not likely to uncover many disqualifying conditions. Perhaps your blood pressure may be too high, but that can typically be successfully handled by your AME. Or maybe the urine test could discover diabetes you were unaware of. But the reality is the application form is essentially what determines whether you will get the medical certificate or not.

We all know, for example, that most common heart and circulatory conditions such as bypass surgery or stents or strokes are disqualifying. But nowhere in the FARs will you read that many types of cancer are also disqualifying, for example. You can almost always get a medical after a cancer has been successfully treated, but it will go through the special issuance process, take time, and a number of medical reports. Put down on the application that you have had doctor visits to treat a cancer, and most likely you will be denied by the AME.

That is the type of information you need to know before you fill out the medical application. You want to know that you have a disqualifying condition in advance so that you don’t submit the application and be surprised. You need to plan your future. Do you want to go through the process of getting a special issuance certificate with the added medical testing and probably some limitations, or do you want to fly under the Sport Pilot standards? Those are the questions you should ask, and answer, before submitting the medical application.

The rules require that to fly as a Sport Pilot using the driver’s license as a medical you can’t have a disqualifying condition. And you can’t have been denied a medical certificate after applying. Those two sound like the same thing, but they are not.

For example, if you have one of the all too common heart problems that would be disqualifying on a medical application and applied for the medical certificate, you would be denied. That means you would have to get a special issuance certificate before you could fly Sport Pilot. But, if you have your heart condition successfully treated, and are cleared by your physician to resume driving and other normal activity, you no longer have the disqualifying condition and can fly as a Sport Pilot.

If you have the same successful treatment and want a medical certificate you will need to wait typically six months, and then apply for a special issuance medical. You won’t need more actual treatment to get the special medical, just lots of paperwork and probably additional tests that your own doctor won’t require.

Bottom line is to keep control of your options know what your medical status is and don’t apply for a medical certificate until you have a plan. EAA members can call headquarters and get advice from the EAA aeromedical council. Or you can search online at faa.gov to see more about disqualifying conditions. Or you can look for an AME with experience in handling special issuance medicals and talk before you fill out the application. Or you can hire one of several services that will help you prepare for the special issuance.

Whatever you do don’t fill out that FAA medical application without knowing the outcome in advance and having a plan. You should know that you qualify, or don’t, before you ever submit the application. If you plan to go the special issuance route you will be initially denied or deferred on your application, but at that time you have your reports and other paperwork in order and can minimize the hassle factor. If you are happy to fly on as a Sport Pilot get the medical treatment you need, regain your health, and never touch that medical application again.

This will be even more important if the FAA grants the EAA/AOPA petition to allow pilots to fly day VFR in a single engine airplane with 180 hp or less, no more than four seats, and carrying no more than one passenger. Many thousands of pilots commented favorably on the petition and it is still under consideration by the FAA. Approving that petition would do more to reduce the hassle and cost of the way so many pilots fly than anything I can think of.

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37 Responses to Talk Before Applying for that Medical

  1. Cary Alburn says:

    In addition to talking before acting, it’s important for Sport Pilot applicants to realize that they are still self-certifying (as those of us with unrestricted medicals or special issuance medicals are doing between exams) that they have no disqualifying conditions which will impact the safety of flight.

    As a wild for instance, let’s assume that an individual suffers from periodic epileptic seizures. He knows it, he’s lived with it all of his life, but he wants to fly. He knows that if he has a seizure, he’s likely to crash and be killed, but he’s willing to take that chance. So he goes through the training without a hitch, and he takes his check ride and passes, and the DE says, “congratulations, you now have a license to learn”. And not once did our boy ever admit to anyone, not his CFI, not the DE, that he is epileptic.

    Similarly, our boy has never admitted to anyone at the DMV that he is epileptic, and so far, he hasn’t had an accident in which epilepsy played any part. So he’s had his drivers license for many years, and he has an unblemished driving record.

    Can this newly minted Sport Pilot legally fly as PIC? Absolutely not! Sure, he’s never been denied an aviation medical, but he has a known medical condition which is absolutely disqualifying, and nothing will make it better.

    There are certainly other such conditions which impact the safety of flight–untreated heart disease, larger aneurysms, certain kinds of cancers, and unless there’s some special training readily available (which there isn’t yet) for prospective pilots to be made aware of what is and what is not such a condition, then most people are simply ill-equipped to make the decision that they are medically safe to fly.

    Those of us who have had to jump through the hoops to get a Special Issuance medical are probably more aware than others who haven’t had the experience, and yes, it does mean a lot more paperwork. But I’d much rather know that what I thought was a benign issue really is benign, than to fool myself into thinking I’m medically safe, when I’m not.

    Cary

  2. The regulation is brain-damaged. Why should someone be unable to fly an LSA if a problem was discovered during an FAA medical exam, but not if the same problem was discovered in another context (e.g., an informal consult with the AME or a routine physical with a primary-care physician)?

    Also brain-damaged is the new FAA MedXPress requirement. In the old days, you could have your AME look over your form 8500-8 and tell you “no, you don’t want to say that, the FAA doesn’t need to know that, etc.” Now you have to fill out the application line without AME guidance, and if you say something self-incriminating, you’re screwed.

    Now with sequestration, I figure that special issuances will become impossible to get. Which means that pilots will need to become better liars if they want to keep flying. (I has a cancer diagnosis 11 years ago, and flew for five years on a special issuance. My cancer remains in full remission with no detectable residual disease, and I’ve been back to a standard medical for six years.)

    They just ought to do away with the third-class medical. Every AME I’ve spoken to agrees with that. If the FAA did this and let pilots who don’t fly for a living operate with a driver’s license, there’d be absolutely no measurable impact on the accident statistics. With the millions they’d save by doing this, they could probably leave a few more control towers open. But of course, it ain’t gonna happen because the FAA is terrified that if they ever eliminated the medical requirement for private pilots, Sixty Minutes would pick up the story and all hell would break loose. (And it probably would.)

    Raymond Burr had the right idea. He bought his own island so he didn’t have to put up with government @#$%^&*!

  3. Roger Halstead says:

    A point: Strokes were listed as disqualifying. A stroke is not necessarily disqualifying. I had one six years ago. Lost my whole left side. In two years, through therapy I learned to walk again and was back to touch typing at 60 – 70 wpm. the only remnant was a slight limp most people didn’t even notice and I had a provisional medical. A year later The FAA dropped the provisional part, so I had a full 3rd class medical.

  4. jay says:

    Wow, this subject gets old. Read 61.23 of the FAR/AIM. You will find a very subtle, easily misunderstood sentence “operations requiring a medical certificate”. Note, a SP does not require a medical certificate so you need to read Section (c) (2) of 61.23 with that understanding in mind.

    If you disagree, cite just one example of an insurance company denying a claim – life or property – based on the point that the pilot should not have been flying because they would have been denied a medical.

    If you can, I will thank you because I will not spend 70 k on a vans RV12 kit.

    Thank you

  5. Steve Leonard says:

    It’s a sure sign of the excessive complexity of the aeromedical certification system that even experts like Mac MacClellan and Mike Busch would get lost in the weeds. A few clarifications are in order.

    Most importantly, the online application for a medical certificate (still referred to as an 8500-8 even though the paper form no longer exists) does not become an official FAA exam until an AME enters the confirmation number and imports it into the Aerospace Medical Certification System. Until then, the form that you fill out and submit online sits on a completely separate server, and if no AME imports it within 60 days it vanishes without a trace, and FAA doesn’t know it ever existed.

    So to say, “Whatever you do don’t fill out that FAA medical application …” is really not the best advice. The best course for every pilot, whether he has a medical problem or not, is to complete the form online, submit it, and on the confirmation page click the link for Exam Summary.” The resulting PDF can be saved for future reference. More importantly, it should be printed and taken to the AME’s office. If you have any concern about certification, don’t give anyone the certification number until after talking to the AME. He can review the history, clarify any problems, request any additional information, and do the physical exam before importing the application. If anything disqualifying shows up, he can stop the exam, and as far as FAA is concerned it never happened, and you’re free to fly as a Sport Pilot. This is not some kind of underhanded cheating — it’s what the Office of Aerospace Medicine expects to happen.

    Once you have completed and submitted the online application, it is true you can no longer change it. But if you and your AME find something that needs to be correcting, he can still do so. Whether it’s a forgotten medication, or a wrong answer to a trick question (Do you ever use near vision contact lenses?), the AME can fix it before the exam goes to FAA.

    It is true that some AME’s are also still confused about all this. Just make sure to keep that certification number hidden until you’re sure you understand where you stand with respect to the regs and with your AME, and nothing you enter into MedXPress will come back to bite you. And make sure you have an AME who understands the system. EAA is here to help. As are AOPA and a number of private aviation medicine companies.

    Furthermore, FAR 61.53 does not apply to Sport Pilot.
    FAR 61.23(c)(2) states:
    A person using a U.S. driver’s license to meet the requirements of this paragraph must–
    (i) Comply with each restriction and limitation imposed by that person’s U.S. driver’s license and any judicial or administrative order applying to the operation of a motor vehicle;
    (ii) Have been found eligible for the issuance of at least a third-class airman medical certificate at the time of his or her most recent application (if the person has applied for a medical certificate);
    (iii) Not have had his or her most recently issued medical certificate (if the person has held a medical certificate) suspended or revoked or most recent Authorization for a Special Issuance of a Medical Certificate withdrawn; and
    (iv) Not know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner.

    It’s confusing, but (iv) specifically and intentionally does not state “any medical condition that would disqualify that person from receiving an FAA Airman Medical Certificate.” It states “any medical condition that would make that persona unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner.” Just what that means is left to your discretion and judgment. The only written medical standards for Sport Pilot are the standards imposed by the DMV in the state where you hold a driver’s license. If you have epilepsy and you have a valid driver’s license from a state where people with grand mal epilepsy can drive, then you can fly as a Sport Pilot. If your state prohibits epileptics from driving, then you can’t.
    (See )
    It isn’t fair, but it’s the way the DOT lawyers screwed up Sport Pilot. As proposed by former Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Jon Jordan, there were supposed to be no medical standards at all for Sport Pilot, but the DOT lawyers inserted them at the very last moment before adoption of the final rule.

    If you have coronary artery disease that’s not bad enough to need a bypass but shows up on a stress test, or cancer that’s treated but not cured, or you’re taking prohibited medications for ADD or depression, and you’re pretty sure you cannot qualify for an FAA medical certificate, but you’ve got a valid driver’s license and you feel safe to drive and feel safe to fly, you can drive and you can fly as a Sport Pilot. If you don’t believe you’re up to flying (or driving) safely, then you shouldn’t.

    It is certainly correct that the history as listed on the application and supporting documents is a much bigger factor in the decision than the actual somewhat cursory physical exam and dipstick urine test your AME does. It is absolutely correct that you want to discuss any potential problems with your AME before the exam “goes live.” But that trigger is not pulled by filling out MedXPress, and avoiding MedXPress will only delay your certification process.

    Stephen D Leonard, MD, FACS
    Chairman, EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council
    Senior Aviation Medical Examiner – HIMS
    ATP, LR-JET, CE-500, SF.260
    2900 Chamblee-Tucker Rd, Bldg 5-210
    Atlanta, GA 30341

    Ofc 404-266-0010

    • Jay says:

      Thank you for your well explained response. I have explained the same thing to many people but they just can’t wrap their head around it. Now, time to order that RV12.

    • Steve Leonard says:

      Corrections to my post above:

      I screwed up the HTML tags and they don’t show up.
      MedXPress is at medxpress.faa.gov
      State policies on epilepsy are at
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilepsy_and_driving#Laws_by_state

      In the third and fifth paragraphs I wrote “certification number.” It should be “confirmation number.”

    • Roger Halstead says:

      You may be a Doctor, but we are dealing with two things here, One is the English language and the other is computer form that only expire after 60 days. It’s just not as simple as some are making it out to be.

      I make the following statements having a degree in CS, dealing with government agencies, records retention guidelines, and usage. Rarely do these things work as they are supposed to, or as they are presented to the public. There are just too many things to go wrong to assume they will work as we are told.

      Yes you can make a mistake and out something down you shouldn’t have and it will disappear IF you do not apply for a renewal before the form is purged from the system then you are OK, BUT if you apply for renewal BEFORE that form is purged and make a mistake, (I said mistake, not that you have something wrong with you that you want to hide) that piece of paper, or computer data that is the form you are going to turn in. You don’t catch that mistake, apply for a renewal and that mistake is now on your record for all eternity.

      The point is, if you use that form by applying for renewal, you have to catch the mistake and then wait the 60 days for the form to expire before filling out another which hopefully is correct this time. We are also assuming that records are really purged at 60 days. That is placing a lot of faith in a system that is flaky at best.

      Again, it’s not that the person filling out the form has anything wrong with them, it’s just they made a mistake putting down something the AME would tell them not to and if they do not catch it, they are stuck with it for life if they use that form before it’s purged from the system.

      Part of my concern is the government is very good at keeping records well past the records retention date unless it is to their advantage to purge them. The other is that many think the 60 day purge is a “get out of jail free card”, but is has no effect if you go ahead and us that data.

      • Steve Leonard says:

        Yes, it actually is just as simple as I’ve suggested. I’m not sure I understand your point, but if you make a mistake filling out MedXPress and only detect it after submitting the form, you don’t have to wait 60 days for it to disappear; you and your AME can just correct it before the AME finalizes the exam. Even with the old paper form, if you made an error, and the AME didn’t catch it, and the AME transcribed your error into FAA’s system and submitted it that way, then the error went to FAA, just as an error now will go to FAA if it isn’t corrected.

        But if it’s truly an error, and FAA notices and comments on it, it’s really easy to tell them oops, that was an error, here’s what I should have said. They may ask for some kind of documentation if you initially say you have a brain tumor and you tell them you meant to say that you had a zit on your nose, but the online MedXPress system is no more of a threat, and no likelier to enshrine an error on your record for all eternity than the paper 8500-8 form was.

  6. Jack Hastings says:

    When you fill out Med-Xpress and obtain a confirmation number, print out the form with the confirmation number, and then do nothing, the form and the confirmation number cease to exist in 60 days. It no longer exists and never did, period. When you give your AME the confirmation number and he or she IMPORTS THE APPLICATION WITH THE CONFIRMATION NUMBER YOU PROVIDE, that is the equivalent of signing the form in front of the FAA and handing it to them. THEN AND ONLY THEN does the application become officially activated. This is an extremely important point for pilots to understand. No import by the AME, no application filed, ever.
    Jack Hastings

  7. Steve Leonard says:

    I screwed up the HTML tags in my post above.

    MedXPress is at medxpress.faa.gov

    State policies on epilepsy are at
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilepsy_and_driving#Laws_by_state

  8. Mac says:

    Good comments all, but the point is that if you know, or should know, that you have a medical condition that will be disqualifying, don’t apply until you know if you want to go for the special medical, or simply have your medical condition treated and fly on as a Sport Pilot. And there is good reason to hope that the EAA/AOPA petition to allow flying to the recreational standard with a driver’s license as medical will be approved. We at EAA and AOPA are doing all we can to urge the FAA to make that happen.
    Mac Mc

  9. melvin Freedman says:

    Busch is right. I had bypass surgery over 20yrs ago and had to wait until I went on medicare to afford the physical eval to get a waiver, I had two waivers. At the time do you think my insurer is going to do an eval after only six mo and all that $ spent on me. Mac, you did a good job, but most pilots won’t listen to you. Lets face it the faa has a holy grail in the 3rd med and is not about to give it up

  10. Charles Brame says:

    I have a heart condition that has been successfully treated, and I am now flying on my second six year Special Waiver. The current waiver won’t expire for another five years.

    My question is: If I simply stop getting annual Class 3 AME exams and quit taking the expensive tests required by the Special Waiver, can I legally fly as a Sport Pilot.

    • Mac says:

      Yes, Charles, you can fly as a Sport Pilot. No need to get any additional FAA medical certification. Your treatment is enough to qualify for your driver’s license and you have not been denied a medical certificate. This is exactly what EAA and AOPA have asked the FAA to grant for recreational pilot standards in addition to sport pilot.
      Mac Mc

  11. jeh says:

    This is the BEST information in one place I have read on this topic. Thanks to article author and all the comments. This really helped me and explained a LOT. I have been dead wrong about a lot of things. That is what listening to “hanger talk” will get you.
    Thanks,
    jh

  12. Eugene says:

    The same, maybe even worse occurs in Russia. Instead of AME, we here are subject to pass through a bunch of the hospital specialists no matter how old we are. When getting older it turns into a pain in rear: growing up mass of analyses, tests,waisted time and a lot of money . The doctors’ primary task is to hold their position …considering pilots as a secondary stuff. In turn, Aviators invent any, sometimes strange ways to avoid the danger and keep in saddle. Many years ago, middle aged and in good shape, I was transitioning from military to civil aviation. The first step was a thorough medical exam,this time in the central civil aviation hospital. Succesfully and quickly passing through multiple medical barriers, I was on top of the world….too early, as it turned out.
    Be based only on the encephalogram, they finally said me that my condition was so bad they didn’t guaranty me stay alive within the next few months. Without jokes! I still live and now my son Alex is at the controls of Pilatus. It have had taken me two hours with AME to pass for second class medical while in Russia it took me, in whole, at least a week.
    Thank you,folks, for being with you on these pages. There’s a chance to meet somebody in Oshkosh , my very first “must to see” visit. I was twice in WA where have some true friends,old generation. Raised airfare…Milwaukee,rental car… What’s about Hertz, is there any discount for EAAer?
    Kindest regards

  13. Nate D'Anna says:

    What this all boils down to is that the FAA has a double standard and it should be challenged. I would have hoped that EAA and AOPA would be more vocal in challenging the double standard, but it appears the attitude is “don’t upset the apple cart even if it is discriminatory”.

    Well the apple cart is full of BS. My medical was revoked 2 years ago because I had cancer twice. Even though I am totally clean now, in good health and with written testimonials from my doctors as to my perfect health sent to the FAA, I still have to wait another year, will have to undergo the expense and hassle of an MRI, Cat scan and submission of paperwork to be reconsidered. Had I known that this would have happened, I would have never applied for renewal of my medical certficate. But since I am an honest person and do things by the book, I am being punished. As if cancer in and of itself wasn’t enough punishment, and as if the FAA and its double standard isn’t enough punishment, I have to sit on the ground after flying with a perfect record for 41 years and watch old geezers that can’t even move, see or breathe normally get into a light sport and fly away—all because the FAA trusts them in their lies. It is an insult to a pilot of my tenure to be denied sport priviledges where I never broke a rule, never had an accident and even landed a plane without a scratch after catastrophic engine failure. So the FAA trusts people they don’t even know, but won’t trust a veteran because he has been honest. Shame on you FAA. I believe a class action suit should be brought against you for discrimination and supporting a double standard. So where are EAA and AOPA’s legal teams? It’s time to stop the discrimination even if it means a legal battle. If you don’t engage in a fight for equality, you’re just as guilty in supporting the lies and double standards as the FAA and the unhealthy lying sport pilots.

    I am beginning to wonder why I waste my money any more on EAA and AOPA dues.
    Because of you both not legally challenging this in court, I and many pilots in my situation may never be able to fly again and that means you will lose me as a 40 plus year member and others.

    All you ever preach and spend time and money on is trying to attract new pilots to the fold because the pilot population is dwindling. Nice, but don’t you think you should spend time and money in representing veteran pilots to keep the roles up also?

    It’s time for you to focus and fight for equality on this Sport pilot issue.

    Do I seem angry and disappointed with EAA and AOPA over this issue?—You bet I am. But as the old saying goes, nice guys and honest guys always finish last and I guess I took the wrong path in life by being nice and honest.

    Do something legally to even out this playing field!!! PLEASE!!!!

    • Mac says:

      Nate, nobody is lying. I am sorry you have been caught up in the special issuance medical system. As you say, it can be very complicated and expensive. When the Sport Pilot rule was being developed nobody saw this situation coming. It is a Catch 22. That’s why it is so important that if you intend to fly on as a Sport Pilot do not apply for a medical certificate if you know, or should know, that you have a disqualifying condition. Nobody is happy with the situation, but pilots who simply let a medical certificate lapse and fly on using their driver’s license as a Sport Pilot are meeting the rule.
      The special issuance is very different because when you get a medical of any class you can fly any type of airplane as long as you are not paid to fly. For example, with a third class medical–special issuance or not–I can fly a large jet as long as I am not paid. With the Sport Pilot I can only fly very lightweight and simple airplanes. So there is a difference and it’s vital to know which type of flying you want to continue and get the special medical, or if you are happy with the Sport Pilot limitations, do not apply for a medical.
      Mac Mc

      • Charles Davis says:

        I’m over 50 years olds and that 3rd class really concerning me, can’t imagine not being able to fly EVER.
        I’m in good health but I do take a little blood pressure medication, nothing heavy, so here’s my question, does the AME automatically check your prescription history with your pharmacist before certifiing your application?

        • Steve Leonard says:

          No, the AME does not check your prescription history with anyone. The information you provide when you complete the 8500-8 on MedXPress is the what the AME uses. If something doesn’t make sense he will ask you to clarify it, and if he sees something that he knows FAA will want to see more information about he will (or at least should) ask you to bring that additional information before proceeding with the exam.

  14. jay says:

    Sport pilots are not lying. Where do you get that? Did you read the comment from Steve Leonard above? Know the rules, understand the rules, don’t listen to the idiots in the FBO who think they are all experts on the FAA language and play by the rules. I do and fly 120+ hours a year as a SP.

  15. Rich J says:

    All good comments above. I would only add that if you are going for a special issuance medical, see a doctor that is designated as a senior AME. You’ll have to look for these and maybe ask, but they have had training over and above the regular AME, and are very knowledgeable as to what the FAA wants. Most senior AME’s will offer you an “office visit” to go over what paperwork is required and the actual paperwork itself before the MedExpress form is ever touched. They will instruct you on what to send to the FAA, and will converse with their contacts at the FAA before your exam, so that when you go to their office with your MedExpress confirmation number, they do the hearing/eyes/able bodied tests and you walk out of their office with your medical certificate. They have already conversed with the FAA and have the FAA’s approval to issue you a special issuance. My first special issuance took 4 months for the FAA to review. Then I got my regular back after 5 years. After a couple of years, I had another condition that was treated but still required a special issuance, and this time it took less than an hour.

  16. John says:

    Considering buying a light sport or a Cessna 172…want no part in getting another 3rd class medical…would probably rather buy the 172, so how long do I wait to see if the EAA/AOPA petition (recreational pilot/ driver’s license medical) is approved? ….maybe this predicament has something to do with the recently reported Cessna Skycatcher delivery slowdown..? …grounded for now while I wait…..

  17. Mac says:

    John, I am sorry to say we do not know how the FAA will respond to the EAA/AOPA petition to allow recreational flying in airplanes such as the Cessna 172 using a driver’s license, plus required aeromedical training, instead of a third class medical. The FAA does not give itself a time limit to respond to any petition, so we could hear something soon, or perhaps more months will pass. At EAA and AOPA we remain convinced the required aeromedical training, and testing, will give pilots the knowledge to make safer medical decisions than the third class medical which requires no training or education does. More than 16,000 pilots have commented on the petition so the FAA knows how pilots feel. Let’s hope the FAA agrees.
    Mac Mc

  18. Patrick says:

    I am very sympathetic to Nate’s anger and frustration. Regardless of anyone’s intent, what the FAA’s rules ACTUALLY result in, is exactly as Nate describes it. Operate in good faith, follow the rules, and you run the risk of losing your flying privileges forever. Fly under the radar, let your medical lapse, and you’re free and clear to “self-certify” no matter what your problem might be.

    What’s really sad is that we have gotten used to being treated this way by a government that is practically impervious to the governed. We expect the FAA to behave as if black is white, up is down, and cancer survivors in remission, or ADD/depression sufferers who control their condition with a simple pill, are considered more dangerous than people who choose to go “off the grid” (amazingly, with the government’s tacit encouragement).

    I am not saying the Sport Pilot no-medical rule is bad–exactly the opposite. It ought to be that way for everyone not flying for hire. What’s incredible to me is the Catch-22, which is… absolutely absurd, and insane, and like something out of the movie Brazil. When reality starts to resemble a dystopian sci-fi film, you know you’re in trouble.

  19. David Pavlich says:

    This appeared on the EAA webpage forum today (4/10/13). This has to have at least a bit of a positive effect on the medical process:

    >>A significant change in FAA medical policy occurred today as the Federal Air Surgeon published new policy on Certificates an AME can issue or “CACI”. This change in policy allows AME’s to issue medicals for specific diagnosis without the usual Special Issuance required by the FAA. The diagnosis are Arthritis, Asthma, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C – Chronic, Hypertension, Hypothyroidism, Migraine and Chronic Headache, Pre-Diabetes, and Renal Cancer. Certain medical documentation is required to issue the medical but it does not have to be sent in to the FAA. The medical is good for the normal duration of the certificate depending on the class. More medical conditions are expected to be placed in the CACI program as information is released by the FAA.

    Greg Pinnell, MD EAA Aeromedical Council<<

    David Pavlich

  20. Jack Miller says:

    All good points.
    Most of us have been going to the same AME for our entire flying careers. I know in my case I intend to work with my AME to insure the most desired out come for both of us.
    Thanks to everyone for the comments,
    Jack

  21. Thomas Boyle says:

    Unfortunately, Jack Pelton is now saying he’s “pessimistic” about the medical waiver petition. I take that to mean he’s starting the process of letting everyone down slowly, because someone speaking for the Administrator has told him hell will freeze over before the Aeromedical branch lets that happen.

    In other words, it was dead on arrival. The FAA is just sitting on it, hoping we’ll all forget about it, or that we really don’t have the political clout and/or will to do anything about it.

  22. Thomas Boyle says:

    To follow up on that, Craig Fuller has reported that he met with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and “questions FAA’s support for” the medical exemption. In fact, reading between the lines, it appears that Huerta was essentially unaware of the topic. That’s right – the most-supported petition in FAA history, and the Administrator was unaware of it. It’s not on his agenda. It’s not on any agenda at the FAA.

    Imagine if the topic had been, say, user fees? Do we think that AOPA would have accepted a lack of “FAA support” for its position? Do we think that AOPA would allow anyone relevant to that issue to be effectively unaware of it?

    The fact that Huerta had not heard about this topic in EVERY meeting with AOPA, and in at least several exchanges with US Senators, points to the likely real culprit here: AOPA simply isn’t interested in pursuing this topic, isn’t serious about it, and launched the petition knowing full well that it would die of neglect, as a way to pretend to be doing something about it.

    It’s hard to see any other interpretation.

  23. Thomas Boyle says:

    Mac,

    You’d be in a good position to raise a fuss about AOPA quietly doing nothing about this petition, and meekly allowing the FAA to ignore it, if you chose to…

    Cheers!

  24. Mac says:

    The petition to allow pilots to fly to the recreational standard using a driver’s license, plus required aeromedical training, instead of a third class medical is a joint EAA/AOPA petition. Jack Pelton was in the same meeting with the FAA administrator along with AOPA’s Craig Fuller. Both heard that the FAA is cool toward the idea but has not yet made a final decision.
    Both association leaders told the Administrator how important this petition is to slowing the decline in the active pilot population. Both reminded him that the Sport Pilot record shows no change in safety when using a driver’s license instead of a third class medical. And both leaders reminded the Administrator that a record number of more than 16,000 pilots took the time to comment on the petition.
    Though the official comment period is closed you can still send comments to the FAA. What else can be done? Not a lot until an actual decision comes from the FAA. If and when that happens both associations will develop a strategy to rally members to let many levels of government know how important this petition is to the future of geneal aviation.
    Mac Mc

  25. Thomas Boyle says:

    Hi Mac,

    Thanks for the response.

    Actually, it’s most important to bring pressure to bear on a bureaucracy before it makes its decision. Afterwards, it will be too late. Once the bureaucracy makes its decision, it shifts into the mode of defending that position, and bureaucracies are very good at doing that. A decision, once made, is effectively written in stone: a “yes” is irreversible – but so is a “no”. It would take an Act of Congress to reverse a “no”, whereas it might take only a few phone calls from Congress to get a “yes” in the first place.

    That’s why, for example, all the pressure on Congress about user fees is happening now, without waiting for user fees to become law; once they’re law, there will be no getting rid of them (and they will expand). We all know this.

    Thus, if AOPA/EAA were serious about getting the right decision from the FAA on the medical petition, they should have been applying behind-the-scenes pressure since the petition was submitted. The fact that the Administrator appeared unaware of the petition, and the organization cool to it, are symptoms that suggest that nothing of the sort has been happening. The fact that it was the most-supported petition in FAA history, and that he had not heard of it, tells you just how much attention the FAA pays to those petitions.

    There are quite a few Senators and Congressmen in the GA caucus. More than a few of them are no longer young, but are pilots. And they’re all sensitive to public opinion. Believe me, if one of them had even casually mentioned to Mr. Huerta that he (or she) was “looking forward to the FAA approving the AOPA/EAA medical waiver”, Mr. Huerta would a) have found out exactly what it was and b) would have been much more likely to communicate to his staff, in turn, that he was “looking forward to their recommendation to approve that waiver”. Again, Mr. Huerta’s apparent reaction suggests that he has not had any of these conversations.

    Making sure those conversations happen, is what AOPA and EAA should have been doing, not sitting on their hands waiting for a mid-level bureaucrat to take a career risk by recommending a rule change he hadn’t been asked for from higher in the chain of command. It would take real, aviation-loving, personal-sacrificing courage for someone mid-level at FAA to do that.

    16,000 people signed that petition, but there has been no effort by AOPA or EAA to mobilize that support to contact key congresspersons, for example. Now, before a decision gets written in stone. Again, when Mr. Huerta hears that all these people signed the petition and not a single Senator has asked him how it’s going, what he learns is that his bosses don’t care, that the 16,000 people, for whatever reason, are below the noise level in Congress – or perhaps were coaxed into signing, but don’t really care that much.

    I would have hoped Jack Pelton would have known all this, but he’s a corporate man and perhaps it’s excusable. I really have trouble understanding what Craig Fuller’s excuse might be, other than “this isn’t an important issue to business aviation”. I’m deeply disappointed by both organizations, which I had given credit for more.

  26. Kevin says:

    Hi Mac. Does the AOPA/EAA medical exemption proposal cover student pilots going for recreational or private pilot certificates? According to the petition submitted to the FAA it says it does but I heard that EAA says that it does not cover student pilots. What is the actual answer?

    I have been frustrated that the LSA at my current flight school have been under maintenance for over a year and have not gotten a chance to fly that LSA at my school. I have been flying 152s all the time, and I would love to get a private pilot license if the 3rd class medical is not in the way.

  27. Mac says:

    Hi Kevin,
    At this point the issue is unclear because the student pilot certificate that is required to advance to private pilot is also a third class medical certificate. So, the FAA would need to change the student pilot certification standards to eliminate the requirement for the medical exam but still issue a certificate. I’m not sure how that will be addressed. Of course, we also don’t know if the FAA will accept all or any part of the petition. After a meeting with the FAA administrator in early April both Jack Pelton of EAA and Craig Fuller of AOPA said the FAA is cool to the entire concept, even though it has not yet rejected the petition.
    Mac Mc

    • Steve Leonard says:

      Actually, there’s already a mechanism in place to accomplish flight training in a standard category airplane without a medical, so all that would be needed is a policy change, which is much more easily accomplished than a forma rule change. Third Class Airman Medical/Student Pilot Certificates can be issued with the limitation “Valid For Student Pilot Purposes Only.” This currently is used for applicants who will need a medical flight test for a SODA (Statement of Demonstrated Ability — i.e. waiver) but can’t take that until they know how to fly. so they get a limited license to learn. It currently requires the AME to obtain case-by-case approval from an FAA physician, but if FAA chose to expand this it could be used to allow students in Kevin’s position to continue training, including solo flight, in a 152. Theoretically as the rule now stands he could even take the Private Pilot checkride in a 152 — but once he passed he couldn’t fly that 152 back to his home airport as a Private Pilot without a valid Third Class Medical, but even that could be covered with a policy change. Even if the EAA/AOPA exemption proposal is not accepted, it would allow the student pilot more time to choose whether to fly as a Light Sport or Private Pilot.

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