Time for a Compromise on the Medical Petition

It’s been a year and a half since EAA and AOPA jointly filed a petition with the FAA requesting an exemption to permit pilots to fly to a “recreational” standard using a driver’s license as certification of medical fitness. The petition would also establish a requirement for pilots to be trained, and tested, on aeromedical issues that are critical in determining fitness to fly.

More than 16,000 pilots contacted the FAA last year in support of the petition, more than for any other petition on record.

But nothing has happened. The FAA has not said no, but the best spin I can put on the state of the petition is that it is stalled. I think we need to devise a compromise that may resolve a major concern of some FAA officials and get the ball rolling on approval of an exemption that gives us most of what EAA and AOPA requested.

It’s no secret that many in the FAA medical certification branch oppose the petition. Also many, if not most, Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) who are doctors designated by the FAA to conduct FAA medical exams are also against the petition.

From what I hear one of the largest concerns the docs have about the petition is that no initial examination would be required before a pilot flies with the driver’s license. I have to say, that is something I never thought of when the petition was crafted and submitted.

My concept of the petition is that an active pilot would simply restrict his flying to a fixed gear single of 180 hp or less carrying no more than a single passenger under day VFR conditions using the driver’s license as a medical. The pilot who chooses this option would study an aeromedical course online and then be tested to be certain he understands the material. The pilot would then carry the results of that test, along with a valid driver’s license, as evidence of his medical fitness to fly under the recreational limitations.

But here’s the rub that worries some, or even most, in the medical certification operation. Because a pilot certificate does not expire it would be possible, if the petition is granted as requested, for a pilot to resume flying many years, or even decades, after his most recent medical exam. For example, a private pilot who hasn’t flown a minute as pilot in command for the last 30 or 40 years could take the online course and resume flying to the recreational standard without an AME ever looking at him.

You can imagine how big a leap that is for a medical certification office accustomed to seeing us every two years, or at least every five years for pilots under 40. And the way the petition is written it’s unclear, at least to me, if a student pilot would need the initial medical exam to take flying lessons and earn a private certificate.

What I propose—and this is only me, J. Mac, not EAA or AOPA talking—is that the petition be modified to require pilots to have an FAA medical certificate issued within a two or five year window, depending on the pilot’s age, before beginning the driver’s license recreational flying.

If you’re over 40 and had an FAA medical exam less than 25 months ago you could continue flying to the recreational standard using the aeromedical training and driver’s license after your current medical certificate expires. If it has been longer than 25 months you would need to get at least a third class medical certificate to then qualify for the driver’s license medical alternative two years later. I would also stipulate that the student pilot certificate continue to be the third class medical that it has been forever.

What my proposal would do is allow any active pilot to avoid the hassle of future medical exams. But the lapsed pilot or new pilot would still need an initial screening by an AME and could then continue later using the driver’s license and medical training.

This would be a concession, and I’m not sure it would have any safety impact, but since we are asking the FAA medical authorities to budge from a very long standing position this would be asking them to make a smaller step. Then, as years pass and data is collected, we can all know if the new driver’s license medical standard has had any impact on safety. That’s the bottom line. To get real world safety data when pilots have been trained on medical issues and make the essential educated analysis of their fitness to fly before every takeoff.

We need to do something to get the petition off the schneid. After the petition has sat on the FAA desk for so long a compromise is in order on both sides.

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115 Responses to Time for a Compromise on the Medical Petition

  1. Scott G says:

    I completely agree with Ted K.

  2. Lynn OJala says:

    I agree with Mac. If we don’t come up with a compromise, this will go nowhere.

  3. Charles Hinton MD says:

    Sorry but you are absolutely wrong, Mac. Try this instead:

    Every time you get on the highway you pass in close proximitry to all sorts of trucks driven by people who were not certified by Airman Medical Examiners. You do it over and over thousands of times. Instead those people are certified by regular old doctors who perform physical examinations for the various state departments of transportation. They must be issued a medical certificate before they may drive commercially. I do some of those exams and they are pretty reasonable. With these 80,000 trucks rolling around all over the place and doing so pretty safely, I think the system is working. Oh, and the doctors don’t even have to contact the FAA before issuing the certificates.

    Think about it: one truck has more than 50 times the killing power of a little puddle jumper airplane and yet at highway speeds they pass within just a few feet of momma’s, babies and little kids and we don’t think too much about it.

    If somebody needs a medical certificate before flying with a drivers license then the certificate should be the same one issued to commercial drivers. The FAA doesn’t need to medically regulate the recreational flying community; airline pilots yeah, people flying IFR too, but not the rec pilots. I say we keep the pressure on.

    And yes, I kinda think the AME’s would like to keep doing all those 3rd class exams; it’s good money!

    • Paul K says:

      Absolutely correct. Tons of statistics that show the 3rd class medical does not make recreational flying safer (glider, baloon, LSA etc). I’m beginning to wonder if Mac is on the pilots side or the FAA?

  4. William McIntosh says:

    I don’t think EAA/AOPA is going to get to first base with their petition. Or even a compromise. The medical exam/military “right stuff” mindset is too entrenched in FAA/government, and besides, the AMEs have an economic interest in keeping the system status quo.

    In an ideal world, only commercial pilots in the civilian sector should undergo any testing at all. I do think that commercial pilots should be tested psychologically in addition to a physical. It might be a good idea to lower the oxygen requirement to 10,000 feet for those over 40. The overwhelming majority of people contemplating flying for business or pleasure are not going to undertake flying if there’s something wrong. People that are impaired in some way often telegraph the problem, and hopefully concerned individuals will counsel those people to see a doc. Otherwise, let us go fly.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      You have it right when you mention the “Right Stuff” mindset for medical approval. How in the world they can justify such additional requirements on this single mode of transportation in the modern world puzzels me. That seems so 1920′s, the belief that there is any more demand on the body to fly then drive. I have launched in my 4WD SUV into some significant weather, night and day, and do not see where that required any less in terms of physical condition then a typical night cross country in IFR conditions. I recall that back in the early days of passenger flight, the Flight Attendants were required to be Registered Nurses in order to help the passengers deal with the physical demands of sitting in the back. It would seem that they saw the light on that, now if we can just get them to open their other eye.

  5. David Light says:

    Charles is right, I think everyone should see a doctor regular, now days it is the doctor’s job to find something wrong with you that they can treat. I don’t see what that has to do with flying for sport as long as that person is healthy enough to drive. I would trust a person who is aware of their own medical limitations a lot more than I would a half asleep truck driver guiding a twenty ton battering ram down the highway at eighty miles an hour. The government is to serve the people, it sounds to me like the people have spoken and the government is just making another power play that, of late, they seem to be doing so well. On the other hand, I can also see the responsibility of those who are trying to implement a blanket policy given their history.

  6. Fred Nemeth says:

    I agree. Something should be done to move things along, one way or the other. agree that there are entrenched interests in both, the medical community and the bureaucracy, but don’t see a significant difference between this petition and the ” Sport Pilot” rule as far as safety is concerned. A J-3 Cub can /kill you just as dead as the aircraft under consideration in the petition. Passing some form of the requested petition would give a necessary boost to the pilot population and the health of general aviation.

  7. Wayne says:

    Evening J. Mac,

    Schneid…what’s that?

    • Mac says:

      Hi Wayne,
      The schneid–and spelling can vary–is a losing streak, or at least lack of a win. I first became familiar with “getting off the schneid” when playing “skins” in golf. You got off the scheid when you finally won a hole. The figure of speech can be heard in most any sports discussion.
      The origin is thought to be German, probably Yiddish, and may have been used originally by card players.
      When it comes to gaining effective change in medical certification by the FAA we pilots are certainly on the schneid.
      Mac Mc

  8. Rod says:

    The CDL medical exam is the most reasonable compromise and should have been in the exemption from the start. The CDL physical is much less arduous, less restrictive and completely reasonable for recreational privileges. The “special issue” for CDL is much easier and the physician is allowed to use much more judgment. If we use CDL and the DOT starts pulling tricks we will have millions of screaming truck drivers right along with us in the fight. Truthfully if someone can’t pass the CDL physical maybe they really shouldn’t be flying.

    • Paul Mulwitz says:

      Why CDL? What is wrong with the medical standard all drivers must meet?

      In every state every doctor who diagnoses an ailment that REALLY prevents safe driving immediately notifies the state authorities and the patient immediately loses his driving privilege. There is no “Special Issuance” because there is no doubt about the decision. These are cases where the patient is prone to sudden unconsciousness and similar problems. Never mind all the FAA disqualifications like high blood pressure that can be waived (and usually are) after thousands of dollars worth of unnecessary tests and paper shuffling on the bureaucrat’s desks. The FAA system of medical certificates is all but corrupt. It is time for it to go. It makes no more sense for 1st class certificates than for 3rd class ones. Airlines are quite capable of performing their own medical evaluations without the taxpayers and FAA bureaucrats getting involved. It is only the “Wild” world of commercial pilots who don’t work for big aviation companies where the medical – 2nd class – actually serves the flying public in a way that can’t easily be replaced.

      • Richard Warner says:

        I agree completely with your comments, Paul. I think it is time that we push Congress to do something about this ridiculous requirement. Why don’t we start a petition to Congress to force the FAA to move on our petition and grant us the same rights that Light Sport Pilots have. I can see limiting to 2 seats but I sure would like to see them push the horse power up to 250.

        • Paul Mulwitz says:

          If we decide to go the congressional route why limit the movement to the little tiny step proposed by the EAA/AOPA. It makes a lot more sense to me to simply eliminate the 3rd class medical altogether. That would allow full privileges of a Private Pilot in any aircraft without any blessing from the FAA Aeromedical bureaucrats. Privileges would include VFR and IFR, single and multi engine land and sea, etc.

          The Sport Pilot experiment has shown no safety problems using state driver’s license for pilot medical qualification. There is no reason to think this fact wouldn’t apply to any form of aviation in any aircraft. The only reason I would not push for eliminating the FAA medical certificates of all types is a concern about public perception of safety in commercial and airline operations. This is not a problem when flying in an aircraft commanded by a Private Pilot. We all know the risk of pilot error is a lot greater than any medical related problem. In truth I would also eliminate the first class as well since the airlines are fully capable of doing their own medical qualification for their employees.

  9. charles says:

    Twenty tons doesn’t include the weight of the vehicle. I have a Class B CDL and have a current CDL medical. The entire mindset of the bureaucracy is to keep and grow power and budget. The tail has been wagging the dog too long on this.

  10. Mac,

    I think you are off base here. I think that AOPA and EAA should stay the course and try to get the driver license medical for private pilots flying with just one person and with fixed gear and limited horsepower.

    Look at it this way the same pilot can already fly any 1 or 2 seat aircraft that is less than 1320 gross, so what is the big difference if he moves up from say a Luscombe 8A to a 152 or 172, or even something a little faster. He still only has the possibility to harm one other person if he is unfit.

    Now look at glider pilots like me. We do not need any medical exam and how many gliders do you hear about falling from the sky because an unfit pilot died at the controls? From my research there have been none, but the NTSB has yet to rule on the cause of the crash of the LISA 2-33 at KHWV earlier this summer.

    I know of at least one pilot that had a heart attack and died in a commercial airliner in the last couple of years and there was a Cirrus pilot who had a medical that died in flight and the non-pilot in the right seat pulled the chute.

    While a medical certificate is still required for international flights due to treaty obligations I see no good reason that a drivers license or even self certification like glider pilots should not be the way of the future for those who hold PPSEL for domestic flights.

    Pilots tend to be responsible folks. Most unfit pilots stop flying, or stop flying as PIC. Peer pressure will work with the rest. I have seen this in the glider community when a pilot wanted to keep flying beyond his time and his fellow “air sailors” would tell him to stop, refuse to hook him up and or refuse to help him assemble his ship. Of course at the same time they would all offer to fly with him so he could still enjoy his passion.

    The damage one little plane can do is far less than what a car can do on a busy freeway or city street.

    It is high time the requirement for domestic medical certificates for private pilots ends.


    • Mac says:

      Everything you say, Brett, is true. But we are asking the FAA to change its religion. If the FAA grants the exemption it is essentially saying it has been wrong about the third class medical for decades. That’s hard to do. Since action on the petition has gone exactly nowhere a negotiation seems like the best hope to perhaps see some action. Right now we have zero, and the FAA has not given any reason to be optimistic. Something, just about anything, is better than what we have now.
      Mac Mc

      • Sarah Ashmore says:

        While your proposal represents positive thinking it would have very little impact on the active pilot population, just allow a convenience for those who can already pass the 3rd class. The real goal is to get people back into the cockpit who have been grounded by the outrageously restrictive medical certification requirements. I was grounded by such restrictions yet look at all the alternate forms of transportation that remaind open to me and they are certinly no less demanding physically. And that is really the point, flying is not any more demanding from a physiological point then other forms of transportation so why have this special case certification requirement ? This mindset that flying a plane requires these strict medical standards is laughable at best.

        • Sarah-

          If you are fit to fly get yourself a glider certificate. If you want to be able to take off without a tow plane get the self launch endorsement and then get something like a grob 109.


      • Beernardo Melendez says:

        So why should we all have to follow the FAA’s “religion”? My thoughts are that they have been wrong all along on 3rd class medical certificates.
        On this subject, the FAA has too much political power, too. It’s either right, or it’s wrong. Having these entrenched powers do not mean that they are correct, nor that we should be ignored. We, the citizens and aviators should demand an answer to our petitions at a reasonable time, not when they decide to do so at their whim. After all, they are paid by our tax dollars.

        • melvin Freedman says:

          Beernardo, the faa reminds me of the j edgar hoover days of the FBI, No politican goes near them.

      • mike thompson says:

        >Something, just about anything, is better than what we have now.<
        I totally disagree. What you are suggesting is nearly the same thing we have now.
        What we need is some strong input from members to the FAA and congress.
        You talk as though the FAA has the right to act like they do and we should just like it.

  11. That should have been 2-32 above, not 2-33.


  12. Thomas Boyle says:


    Yes, it’s possible to get a driver license without ever seeing a doctor, and that’s a legitimate point. The legitimate response is that the AME can see the applicant and confirm that the applicant IS fit to hold a driver license – but no more than that.

    Require an initial 3rd Class, and you kill the whole idea of the medical exemption, which is precisely that it allows people to fly who cannot get past the (overkill) 3rd Class Medical but who are fit enough to drive (if you weren’t aware that the 3rd Class is overkill, you need to meet people with controlled diabetes, a history of cancer, or any of the numerous other conditions that create Special Issuance Hell, at best, and a denial, at worst, for so many people – as has been extensively discussed in the past).

    And, once a “compromise” like this is in place, you’ll never get it removed – you kill the exemption forever, because now the issue has been “dealt with”.

    Mac, I enjoy most of your columns, but I’ve noticed you’ve gone more than a little “DC native” over the years. You trust the FAA way too much, and you are not nearly willing enough to push back at them.

    AOPA/EAA should stay the course, but turn up the political heat.

    The way to overcome the objections of the self-interested medical branch (just imagine – they don’t want their empire to get smaller!) is not to compromise. Their power is bureaucratic, and one-on-one they can crush us. But, ours is political: there are more of us, and together, we can crush them. We go after them top down, not bottom up. There are many possible ways to do that, but a few Senators asking awkward questions could do a lot more to move this along than any amount of begging and compromising.

  13. Gary Motley says:

    It’s time we start making our elected representatives and hence, government, responsive to the people who elected them. Adminstrative decisions are out of control and against the wishes of the vast majority of our citizens. I would encourage EAA/AOPA to start spending the required amounts of money on this interest to attract the attention of our elected officials. To let them know that we are watching them and their actions will be publicized to our members for the upcoming elections.

  14. Terry says:

    I disagree with Mac on this. The EAA and AOPA needs to stay the course–you give the FAA an inch and they will take a mile. Mac’s idea would defeat the entire purpose of the exemption. If we are not careful, the FAA might decide it would be a good idea to have a Sport Pilot flying a LSA get an intial 3rd class medical before they could fly with a driver lic medical. We need to bring pilots who have dropped out of flying back in. I flew for 39 years before the hassle of the 3rd class medical and the cost of flying got to me–I would come back if the excemption goes into effect. We need to push the FAA to grant the exemption thru the legislative process and push the funding issue of how much the FAA would save by granting the exemption.

  15. Gerard says:

    Maybe it’s time someone sued the FAA over all this silliness under the Americans with Disabilities act.

  16. Jerry Fraser says:

    The FAA has obviously determined that it can achieve a certain level of performance by using population health models to construct certification standards. But the truth is, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
    Our personal physicians treat us based on what is typically their longstanding knowledge of our health. I’m sure most of us know very fit individuals who have lost their medicals because of a regimen chosen by their doctor, or who have wearied of the time and expense involved in securing their third-class certification.
    Unless and until pilot incapacitation becomes a problem, the FAA has no reason to fear self-certification.

  17. David Dean says:

    The third class medical for recreational day VFR flyers is a hassle that simply does not need to be there, other than serving the economic interest of a few, and the sustainment of a bureaucracy. How do you compromise with an administration that received an overwhelming number of positive responses during the comment period, and has not even responded in what is now close to a year. The Administrator for the first time in years did not make an appearance at Oshkosh, and that speaks volumes. Doesn’t the other side need to advance a position for compromise. Each day General Aviation continues on its decline because individuals see that the scale has tipped to the “too hard” and too expensive side. We have politicians on both sides of the aisle that proclaim constantly that we need to eliminate needless and non-productive regulations to save the government money and stimulate the economy. This is an excellent example of an opportunity to do just that. Only fear and self serving hold them back. I wrote my congressman, everybody else that feels strongly about it should to. Finally, it would be energizing if the EAA was more aggressive in pursuing this, something on the lines of the call for general quarters when this and previous administrations have called for user fees.

  18. John Rodkey says:

    Mac, I wonder whether the delay in action on the medical proposal is due to opposition within the FAA to the concept, or if the sequester has meant that they can’t allocate resources to a ‘new’ program, even if it is one that will reduce the amount of resources they will ultimately need to expend for pilot certification. Just speculation: do you have information that would lean toward one or the other of those interpretations?

  19. Fred says:

    Sorry, but Mac is wrong. The class III medical is without empirical justification, and in any other segment of US life it would be illegal under the ADA. If the FAA won’t act, then they need to be sued. They work for us, not vice versa.

    I don’t care that the FAA aeromedical folks or the AMEs like it. Their conflict is obvious. Oh yeah, I’m an occupational medicine specialist. Most AMEs aren’t.

  20. Scott says:

    C’mon folks – think back to when this was proposed. You better believe that Hightower (then EAA) & Fuller (AOPA) already had an assurance if easy passage from the then- FAA Administrator – or else they would not have made such a grandstand announcement. If it was a shot in the dark, it would have been much more low key. However, the plan to go thru the motions & quickly get it approved soon fell apart when the FAA Administrator imbibed a little too much and got a DUI. He was then out if a job – and there was no such deal with his successor. Hightower followed to the exit & now Fuller is right behind them …..

  21. Gary B. says:

    I usually find myself in agreement with Mac, but in this case I would have to disagree on the specifics of the proposed compromise. I don’t see much point in the EAA/AOPA proposed exemption if it still requires a visit to the AME for a 3rd-class. I would even say that the restriction to day-VFR with one passenger is too restrictive (why not night VFR, or 3 passengers)? However, I accept those compromises since it IS a big change for the FAA and the AMEs who have a vested financial interest in keeping the 3rd-class.

    The real problem with the visit to the AME is that it’s a pass/fail event, and if you fail, you’re done for unless you go through a bunch of hoops to eventually get a “pass”. While it might sound good on paper, what it really means is that you have a sizable percentage of pilots either lying on their medical application, or flying LSA when maybe they shouldn’t be. It does NOT increase safety, and in fact probably DECREASES safety. But, if you could visit an AME where the outcome is either pass or no pass (much like taking a flight review), I think pilots would be much more willing to go, knowing that a “no pass” simply means they have to “take additional training” (to continue with the flight review analogy) and come back at a later date (minus a lot of arguably unnecessary paperwork, waiting period, and exams).

    Of course, if we can go that far, why not just make that the standard for 3rd class medicals in general and not even require the special exemption. Add in the proposed exemption’s training course, and now we’re talking real safety improvements AND reduced costs. The AMEs can be happy that they’ll still get the income, and the pilots can be happy that one “fail” doesn’t mean the potentially irrevocable end to their flying. Seems like a win-win to me (unless you’re a large government agency that sees reduced, streamlined regulation as a bad thing).

  22. Joe says:

    Having spoke with a guy who sits on the ASTM board for LSA’s, he doesn’t think it will happen for one simple reason: It won’t pass the “11:00 News Test.” One example: “Who was so irresponsible as to allow this seventy-year-old person to fly an airplane and auger into a house, taking out a family?” Nevermind the fact the same person could have done the same with an SUV, because he/she had a pulse and was issued a driver’s license. Of course, I’m exaggerating about having a pulse, but not by much.

    My AME was surprised that the LSA deal even happened. He also stated that the reason for doing medicals electronically was so that a doc couldn’t rip up the application if a person failed, pretend it never happened, and tell him/her to keep his/her mouth shut and go fly LSA.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      That hits on a really important point. If you fail your 3rd class exam you are shutoff from LSA. The result is if there is even a chance that you might not pass you will stay away from the AME. That really shows how rediculus the situation has gotten. It is shut up and still fly LSA or take a shot at the 3rd class and get completely grounded. It would seem that the potential business base for the AME’s is actually being reduced under this system.

      • melvin Freedman says:

        Sharah, your lost. The med has to go. By the way when you did your last phys, did you say no to all maladies? Also, I live in south fl. Its the medicare ripoff of the nation. It says a lot about the ama.

        • Sarah Ashmore says:

          I am all for ending the 3rd class but also understand the reality that the FAA might need something in between what we have and what we want in order to budge. Burocrats hate making revolutionary changes because it exposes them to risk. And no I never told my AME anything that they would not already know from the limited exam they perform. Basic rule, If it did not leave a scar, then it does not need to be reported.

          • melvin Freedman says:

            Hey sarah your’e all right with me, I didn’t mean to be curt. But I don’t understand how the mfg of acft and all the goodies, never have I ever seen or read any article from these mfg that defend the pilots in there quest to due away with the 3rd med.

          • Sarah Ashmore says:

            Melvin you are never going to get any help from the aircraft manufacturers on this effort. Those that build certified aircraft do not see it providing much new business for their products (if I had 1/4 million I might fight for my medical but not buy a modern antuque). As for the LSA manufacturers they stand to lose a lot if we can fly normally certified aircraft again. The LSA fleet is a bit marginal considering the targets they have to meet for weight and stall speed. I would feel much more comfortable in a nice C150 then a SkyCatcher.

          • melvin Freedman says:

            Sarah. your’e probably right. I rented all my flying life, in las vegas it was just pick what I wanted to fly that day. There are thousands of owners flying without med these days you can be sure.

  23. Jim Truxel says:

    I have been flying for 63 years , over 5,000 hours and still fly weekly, now in a Skycatcher, just selling my expensive maintenance Ercoupe after 4 years. I am also a retired FAA air traffic controller/supervisor ( 38 years) in one of the busiest Centers in the country. After going thru the expense of getting a special issuance that my non FAA Doctors said I did not need in their opinion, I “converted” to Sport Pilot. Are you saying before I can fly under your proposal I must retrace my steps with another AME ? Why not get approval from my regular Dr saying I am safe to fly which I have ? I then carry this letter and proof of the online test with me. Everyone, except the FAA is concerned about general aviation losing so many pilots. Here is a perfect example of how the FAA can prove to us they are really concerned about improving the future of general aviation. In talking to some of my friends still in FAA, they are hoping this exemption will go away and die. I have sent positive letters to FAA, Congress and others and have not received one acknolwdgement of receipt. My wife, who is also a Sport Pilot enjoys the Skycatcher so we are set. But it would be nice to get into a larger aircraft. If we must compromise lets not give away the whole package.

  24. Sherwin Harris says:

    The FAA’s failure to approve the exemption by this time is a travesty and an abuse of their authority. Bureaucratic empire maintenance is intolerable. The arguments in favor of approval are overwhelming. The suggested “compromise” is bogus and counterproductive. Action, as suggested, in the political arena is the correct path. Pressure on the Agency must be generated. AOPA must swing its big guns on congress and we must support a coordinated effort to obtain results. The thousands of us in favor of the exemption must and will follow our organizations lead and call and write our elected officials.

  25. Dean Srygley says:

    Because I have two stents in my heart every year I must comply with FAA requirements by scheduling a treadmill test, lipid profile blood test, visit to cardiologist, then an AME who needs my complete original treadmill results (20 pages), plus lipid profile results, my cardiologist complete two page report, and a list of doctors I’ve seen for previous three years. Typically this process begins in late May and now in mid August I still do not have my Class III even though I have exceeded all FAA reporting requirements (my cardiologist is frustrated with FAA demands citing that I am medically “cured” of heart disease after 10 years of exceeding FAA demands),. I long for an intelligent solution to those who have a similar experience to mine as the ultimate “victim” here is the general aviation community and all that support it.

  26. Martin A. Robb says:

    Mac: In this instance regarding the third class medical, I must disagree completely. The issue is not a case of people who are medically unfit trying to fly, but rather pilots trying to avoid the bureauctratic morass and compreciousness of special issuance. I remember well, as a new pilot 55 years ago, that my local doctor examined me and filled out a medical form. It was up to the local doctor to say whether I was good to go, or not. Why this has not come up as an option is beyond me. Having said that, I would cheerfully accept the CDL in lieu of the FAA medical.

  27. Pete says:

    The FAA is navigated by safety concerns…period. Aviation regulations are all built on a safety foundation. FAA employees are judged and evaluated by their attention to safety. Why in the world would they even give this proposal two minutes of their time? To allow old white men to with suspect medical issues to fly faster, heavier, complex aircraft is certainly not in the best interest of the agency’s mandate. And the justification is “because they want to?”

    The sport pilot allowance was not a “favor”. It was developed by the FAA to get their arms around larger, faster more complex ultralights that were being flown without any regulation. The managed to get ultralights registered and their pilots regulated.

    Give it up.

    • Paul Mulwitz says:

      Pete, you left out the part where the FAA is supposed to promote aviation. Making pilots jump through hoops to prove their minor medical conditions are actually minor doesn’t do anything to accomplish this goal.

      The FAA has fallen into the notion that they are not a government agency but rather a corporation. In this fantasy their customer is the airlines. Any attention they might pay to general aviation and particularly recreational aviation is just a distraction that makes them angry. It is a government bureaucracy run amok.

      If the only goal of the FAA were fear of any possible breach of infinite safety then the bureaucrats there are well qualified to carry out that kind of paranoid policy. Still you have to wonder what happened to the goal of promoting aviation.

  28. I must agree with those who find fault with your compromise proposal Mac. The comparison of destructive power between essentially unregulated SUV drivers and light plane pilots is an excellent point. SUV drivers can bomb around with 13 passengers and 300 plus horsepower under the cowl yet a light plane pilot at most can only carry three passengers. SUV drivers have no restrictions on time of day or weather conditions. Why should light plane pilots, not flying for hire, have to deal with such capricious restrictions. This is just FAA exceptionalism. This is why the pilot community is dying away. In the FAA’s eyes only super men/women are good enough, have the “right stuff”, to lift the wheels from the pavement. This attitude is reinforced in the minds of the pubic by the tall fences and sturdy barricades that prohibit entry by mere mortals into the hallowed halls of aviation.

    The FAA was created as a knee jerk reaction to a commercial airplane accident almost 70 years ago. Their mandate was to create an air traffic control system that would prevent more then one airplane from trying to occupy the same space at the same time. Licensing was never their purvey. I don’t see, under the constitution, where the federal government is granted the power to issue any type of motor vehicle operating license, car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or airplane makes no difference. Under the constitution all such licensing authority should rest with the states. The FAA is naked. The emperor has no clothes.

  29. melvin Freedman says:

    Mac, thanks for your efforts. The 3rd class med has to go, no trace left. We just need honest support. Please, don’t give the ama any openings.

  30. Sarah Ashmore says:

    If you really want a compromise why not try something simple. Lets say you go to your private physician annually and get the usual going over to some AMA standard to assure good health and leave it at that. If anything had shown up that would pull your driving privlidges then it is a done deal, you should not be flying an aircraft. Otherwise you are all set, just have some sort of documentation to prove that you complied. Maybe that will cover the fear factor that people who are in horrible health, never going near the medical profession, will continue to fly. Hay it might even make the roads a bit safer, I live in FL and really question if some of these seniors belong behind the wheel.

    • Sarah-

      What you propose above is very similar to the fourth class medical in Canada.

      Those that fly Ultralight and Advanced Ultralight in Canada (more like our Light Sport than our Ultralight) are required to have a 4th class medical. It consists of a written statement by the pilot that he is fit to fly countersigned by his personal doctor.


      • melvin Freedman says:

        Brett, As one who was born in western NY state I have great respect for Canada. I never knew they had an advanced ultra light rule, or 4th class med. Could you explain?

      • Sarah Ashmore says:

        If you accept the premise that the Exemption request is stalled and only a compromise proposal will get us any progress then what you said is in effect in Canada could be a better idea then what Mac put forward. Personally I think the 3rd class should be abolished but we know from several past efforts that will not pass with the FAA. The 3rd class does not really do all that much good when you consider that it counts on pilots to disclose medical treatment that is not obvious to the examining physician. When I was learning to fly I was given guidance along those lines from my instructor. His advice was never use an AME as my regular physician and if the doctor cannot detect it, don’t report it. This was advice I followed. I happened to have had sinus surgery last week and if I was in a position that I could even get a 3rd class medical there is no way I would report it since it does not show under a normal exam and it just raises the possibility of having to provide all sorts of documentation along with stalling the process. I would not advocate hiding stuff like a heart attack but this small stuff just causes problems given the mindset of the FAA’s AeroMedical staff (I guess it makes them feel like they are doing their job). If we moved to the Canada style 4th class requirement (in place of current 3rd class) then maybe the need for this avoidance would be behind us. When you consider that Airline pilots with 1st class medicals have died at the controls in recent years the whole process of certification seems almost pointless.

  31. Mike Wilson says:

    There should be no compromise. What there should be is no 3rd class medical. Not for any private flying. The data is in: Medical exams do not increase safety. I am sick and tired of jumping through bureaucratic hoops to prove I am fit to fly. I know I am fit and the AME always says I am. Why go through the money, hassle, and even fear. It is like dealing with a power akin to the IRS; you have no control and the results can be catastrophic. If it’s congress we need, let’s get on with it.

  32. Edward says:

    For “Joe Aug 22″ post -according to a recent AME writeup in a newsletter, the AME does not have to “pull up” ones electronically data/form before discussing ones current physical condition and any concerns about passing the physical. The e-form that the pilot completes is not available to the FAA until the AME pulls it up and completes and files -pass/fail/defer. The contractor operating the system keeps ones input in a secure database for two weeks – not available to the FAA only the AME using the record # that was issued when the pilot entered the data. If the record is not acted on, then it is purged from the database. So, if the AME agrees, when the pilot shows up with concerns, then the physical can proceed or not and thus if the AME sees the pilot is not going to pass, the AME just doesn’t pull up the form and it is subsequently purged from the database as if nothing took place – permitting the light sport reg to kick in. As said, this info was from a current AME in Florida.

  33. Rich J says:

    Funny story about how to deal with the FAA. Eight years ago I went to an aviation conference where one of the speakers was from the FAA and was talking about operations in Alaska. He said the goal for the FAA was to get 50% of the pilots to get pilot licenses. Obviously in Alaska, a plane is just another means of transportation, sometimes the only means when there are no roads and the rivers are frozen. As one who has had to jump through the FAA’s special issuance hoops to fly, and having my personal doctor who was an Air Force flight surgeon and a former AME tell me that I was healthier than some flying F-16′s, perhaps it is time for us in the lower 48 to just be like the Alaskans.

  34. Edward says:

    CORRECTION to my entry above concerning the medical exam process. The pilot has 60 days to approach an AME, not the two weeks that I stated – after the 60 days and with no AME accessing the pilot completed form, then the record is purged from the database without the FAA ever having access to the info.

  35. Larry Tompkins says:

    Dear Mac: The primary medical concern of the FAA is purported to be loss of control crashes due to “sudden pilot incapacitation.” To determine the value of the 3rd class medical, there should be statistical data that indicate there is or isn’t an issue with aircraft crashes caused by “sudden pilot incapacitation.” I suggest that there is little the medical profession can do to predict that a pilot will be suddenly incapacitated in a two year period that would be any more perceptive than what you or I could do. You and I could predict that someone who is a “walking time bomb,” e.g., 75 lbs. overweight and smokes like a furnace, would be likely to have a heart attack. However, you and I, and the medical profession as well are unlikely to predict a medical event for the mainstream pilot population.

    To test the hypothesis that there are medical issues, here is research that I did that you can do too:
    1. Go to the FAA data base and look up fatal crashes where the cause was determined to be “pilot incapacitation.” Filter by single engine piston aircraft since this is the category for which relief has been requested.
    2. For the 10 year period from 2000 through 2009, there were a grand total of 15 accidents, so I pulled them all up.
    3. One was a misclassified ground collision.
    4. One involved a pilot flying without a medical after heart bypass surgery.
    5. The pilots in the other 13 fatal crashes all had valid medicals at the time of the crash. 11 were heart attacks. One was undiagnosed brain cancer.
    6. I also did some statistical analysis comparing the probability of “sudden incapacitation” to being struck by lightning (everyone’s favorite random event metric). Of course one is far more likely to be struck by lightning.

    My conclusion is that “sudden pilot incapacitation” is a very minor problem upon which an incredible amount of money is devoted. There is plenty of epidemiological data for the glider and recreational pilot population upon which to base a sound rational decision to eliminate the 3rd class medical and replace it aeromedical knowledge and wellness physicals from Primary Care Physicians and Specialists well versed with their patients medical history.

  36. Philip Groelz says:

    I could see the process ending with a counter compromise that would endanger our LSA privileges. Lets hold out for the original proposal.

    But one change that would have strong benefits would be a ruling that if the AME has not found a reason to disqualify a pilot, the medical is valid until or unless rescinded by Oklahoma City. Too many pilots are losing the use of their aircraft for the months that their paperwork waits in inboxes or shuffles from desk to desk.

  37. norman davis says:

    No Mac the FAA should not consider the 3rd class medical was wrong. It should realize that over the ensuing decades medical science has made great strides in improvments and most people have a better knowledge of medicine and disease than say even five years ago.

    It’s time for FAA to bring itself into the second decade of the 21st century. Instead of constantly dismissing innovation, it should become the enabler. Too many fuddy duddies work there. As a retired US civil servant working in DOD logistics, I was proud of my dedication and the ability to adapt to changing times. I must say that I am at times embarassed by how the FAA operates.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Hey Mr. Davis, that sounds great. I guess you feel better now. But the thousands of pvt pilots who have given up a great part of their life because of a bureaucracy that is totally out of touch with reality, and has let it self be motivated by self serving people in its organization plus every lobby, yes the AMA, for one.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Hey, gary b, your research was excellent. I wish I was more articulate on the keyboard. I don’t know your age, but years ago, I read this info, which said that less than 1/4 of 1% of all acft fatalities were caused by pilots with known or unknown maladies. That dosen’t say much for all those ame docs, I guess that confirms your research. You may e me if you wish.

  38. Joseph Subits says:

    I would like to encourage everyone to be careful what you ask for you might just get it. Right now, the aviation insurance industry has an independent third party in the AME process that certifies on a regular basis that a 70 plus year old Private Pilot is as medically fit to fly as a 40 year old. Thus for the same general amount of flying experience for the same aircraft, they pay about the same for aircraft insurance. Now remove that consistency and as sure as the sun rises, premiums for older pilots will steadily rise with their age until the cost drives even more baby boom pilots out of the sky. We all have seen retirees who exercise regularly, eat well, regularly get eye and medical check ups and in many cases can run and finish a marathon. We also all have seen people in their 40′s who work long hours under stress, don’t get enough sleep on average, are overweight, don’t get regular medical or eye check ups, smoke too much, drink too much and routinely drive under the influence. Which one of these individuals do you want to fly in the pattern with on a Saturday morning?

    • brett hawkins says:

      Very good point. It is often noted that even if the law doesn’t require something, an insurance company can. However, an insurance company cannot stop a pilot from flying or put him in prison, and the FAA can.

      Insurance companies desperately want to sell coverage. I doubt that liability insurance premiums will automatically increase if the FAA 3rd class medical is waived for “recreational” flying. Depending on their actual experience with claims over time, the insurance companies may require an FAA exam, or their own medical exams in the same manner as when selling life insurance. A pilot may voluntarily submit to the exam in order to obtain coverage at a favorable price, or not.

      Also, insurance companies bet that you will NOT get into trouble, and with a few exceptions (military flying, low time pilots in hot experimentals etc.), they are correct. Other posters on this blog have noted that the chance of a GA accident due to pilot incapacitation is statistically tiny, and apparently unrelated to medical exams of any kind. We are just asking the FAA to recognize this and reduce (with conditions) a barrier to a safe, lawful and pleasurable activity.

      • Paul Mulwitz says:

        Actually, aviation insurance companies now have a lot of experience insuring pilots without medical certificates. Many of the pilots taking advantage of the Sport Pilot exception still buy insurance.

        The same lack of problems with these pilots is known to the insurance companies just as well as the FAA. Perhaps limiting your flying to recreational purposes would get you a reduction in insurance premiums.

    • Thomas Boyle says:


      A few thoughts for those lucky enough to reach the time of life where they might become uninsurable:

      - Don’t fly an airplane so valuable you can’t afford to pay for it (or have your estate pay for it). Yes, that might mean downshifting to something very modest.
      - Don’t carry nonpilot passengers.
      - Don’t fly over built-up areas

      There. You just reduced the risk you present to everyone else – physical and financial – to negligible levels.

      We can be responsible, without being regulated. A little social pressure helps: note that, although they are entirely unregulated, hang glider and paraglider pilots would never fly without helmets and reserve chutes – although doing both was once common, and the vast majority of fliers never actually need either.

      • Joseph says:

        Ok. So is the converse true? We have fuel and weather minimums regs on the books and yet the most common causes of accidents in GA is still fuel exhaustion and continued VFR flight into IMC. In that case the statistics scream out for more regs and oversight. The problem with relying on good judgement is that not all pilots exercise it. All regulation is a tricky balance between risk and constraints.

  39. Gary B. says:

    Perhaps AOPA/EAA should start working on the online course pilots would be required to take, right now. While the proposed “recreational medical” and associated limitations are too little for the type of flying I do, I would still take the online course just so I could learn more. Why wait for the exemption to be passed or not? If it passes, then great, tons of pilots will already be ready. And if it doesn’t, at least more pilots will have a better idea of what to look for when self-certifying, beyond just the IMSAFE acronym.
    Besides, I think this would also be a show of good faith from AOPA and EAA that we pilots are serious about being medically fit to fly.

    • Chuck H says:

      Thatis an excellent idea!
      Also, I think the FAA is eventually going to get the message and drop this foolishness. But, it’s going to take a lot of pressure from the pilot community… this is not the time to slack off and wait to see what happens. This is the time to turn up the heat and keep pressure on them.

      • melvin Freedman says:

        Chuck H, I choose your blog to comment on the faa and its total out of touch with reality. Now and then I read articles on faa action on how they keep coming up with acronym’s which cover the names of a group of people who are supposed to be in aviation products. These so (acronym) called people are giving the faa advice . I some how can’t concieve what in the world they are lobbying for other than the products they are selling. They never lobby for the pvt pilot who will buy their products.

  40. Larry Engert says:


    Couldn’t disagree with you more on this particular subject.
    The sport pilot group has very successfully proven that flight without the rigors of the third class medical is very possible. The evidence clearly speaks for itself and the idea we should back off on a very legitimate proposal is flat out wrong.
    It would be my personal observation that your view of the world has been formed over the years by your affiliations with the business aviation community. Nothing inherently wrong with that but I “don’t” feel your in tune with sport and EAA aviation. In conversations with many folks that fly sport pilot, the main thing that stops them from continuing to pursue their third class medicals is the sheer level of frustration to prove over and over that they are indeed fit to fly. You get to the end of the tunnel and the time for the special issuance has run out and the whole battle begins again.
    I know of no pilot that is interested in putting themselves or others unnecessarily at risk if they feel they’re not up to the task on a particular day. There is zero pressure to go fly when its not your job, hence the level of safty we’re seeing.
    Common sense has shown how well the self certified medical has worked on a real world basis. To stall this process or reduce the scope of the petition is silly and just shows how entrenched bureaucrats can be.

  41. Sarah Ashmore says:

    This whole 3rd class medical thing is maybe bigger then we ever thought. I did some research in response to comments on the Canadian 4th class medical and saw that it has an interesting limitation, no exercise of piloting privlidges in forign countries. It seems that there are international standards that the 3rd class is based on so nor we have to take on the world, not just Washington DC (or OKC as the case may be). Of course I have no intention to fly into anybody elses country but this International Agreement slant might give them a reason to shoot down the Exemption request. It is something to consider in formulating an approach to ending the 3rd class medical.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Sarah, their is no doubt that the faa and is 3rd med etc is supported by overwhelming amount of hippocrates, very possible the people we know, sad, isn’t it?

    • Thomas Boyle says:


      Yes, we know all about this. The same issue applies with Sport Pilot, which – outside the US – is currently recognized only by the Bahamas.

      Two points.

      First, we don’t really care. Being able to fly in the US without bureaucrats interfering in our relationship (and ability to be honest) with our doctors would be a huge start. Remember, between “healthy” and “not healthy” there’s a wide grey zone of “I wonder if I should mention this to my doctor?” The FAA biases people toward “don’t mention it”, and that’s a disservice to everyone.

      Second, many countries follow the lead of the US on these matters – and not infrequently they expand on it. Just because every country today requires pilots to pass health tests for astronauts, doesn’t mean they always will – and if the US stops doing it, that could be a catalyst for change.

      • Sarah Ashmore says:

        Right on both points Thomas. I have never flown outside the country and do not intend to, the same can be said for at least 99.9% of the other pilots in the USA (or else where would imagine). As for hiding information from the AME that goes against the grain with me for multiple reasons. If you can’t go to a doctor and bee 100% honest then the whole visit is a pointless. Besides that I was raised to be honest and I was always concerned my behavior would give the deception away when I told the AME that I was completely healthy and had not been to any doctors since my last 3rd class exam. The ommisions were minor and had no effect on safe flying but I still felt like a little kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar and maintaining that nothing was going on.

        The USA for good or bad is certinly the leader in many respects internationally and as you said, if we change then that sets the ball in motion for other countries as well. We do have the resources to devote to such a decision making process and others will consider it a positive endorsement and most likely will follow suit. Maybe we can start a trend.

  42. John says:

    I’m a sport pilot. Got 120+hrs. I just have one problem. I got no airplane to fly. Why? The way that I see it is that the LSA for flight schools is to many $$$$$$ to invest in on something that may or may not take off. I rented one here in Washington state. Started lessons in one type then had to learn in another after they switched planes but I did get ticket, after 36 YEARS of trying. After my knee replacement I went back to the school to find out they sold the LSA they had and the deal for a new one fell thru therefore no plane for me. This no medical rule would be great but I see one block in the way. $$$$$$$$. Yes the mighty dollar. FAA wants theirs the doctors want theirs etc. One solution I see may or may not be easy but was tried before and may need to be tried again. RISE THE PLANES MAX GROSS WEIGHT FOR A SPORT PILOT FROM 1320 TO SAY 1700+/-. This will open up many more planes to rent or own by sport pilots. Flight schools, who have 152′s, should love this increase in gross weight because pilots who think they will not pass their next medical but who still want to fly as a sport pilot now have planes to rent or buy. Keep the medicals the same, pause for the boos, but rise the weight. Data shows sport pilots are safe. I said my 27 cents ( 2 cents times inflation).


    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      Changing LSA might just be easier then changing the 3rd class (or eliminating it). But then you have to fight the manufacturers of LSA’s because nobody will want to buy their aircraft anymore. The LSA rules require some drastic compromise to keep weight and stall speed down while holding two people and providing all the luxury that people seem to expect when they lay out thak kind of money. Most LSA pilots are probably like me anyway and would only consider those acft because they have no option. I am building my own aircraft currently and although it will meet the LSA requirements it will only have one seat. For that I get a very nice roomy aircraft with lots of margin on the weight limit, otherwise it would be close to impossible to accomplish in a hand layup composite airframe.

      • melvin Freedman says:

        Sarah, knowning that you are a lsa pilot, I can tell you that ticket, and I know the day you soloed you became a very special person. was just another ploy by the faa to forstall the very item that we want to elimate. It all with the defunt recreational ticket.

        • Sarah Ashmore says:

          I actually have a Commercial ticket with Instrument rating and 500+ hours in everything from a KingAir to a C150 plus helicopters.That all gave me a lot of “Never Forget” experiences since I soloed back in 1975 off of a 10K feet runway at KVPS. Loosing my medical 10 years ago was the worst thing that ever happened to me and I want nothing more then to be back in the air. As was already mentioned LSA aircraft that are for rent are few and far between but then so are any current production aircraft for the most part. There are not a lot of FBO’s that can afford the risk of buying a $200K aircraft and trying to compete price wise for rentals with an aircraft that was produced 20-30 years ago. Those FBO’s would get a considerable surge in business if their fleets no longer required a 3rd class medical to rent.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      John, my dream came true at 41 yrs of age, I am now am working on 84, had enough of waivers. Unfortunately, This 3rd med issue will be around long after you and I are gone. If you wish, you could do some history searching on the faa, By the way the $$ spent on you ticket were probably the same as if you would have gotten a pvt ticket.

  43. spoo says:

    Oh, brother – or is that Big Brother? Compromising with the devil is still trading some good for some evil, regardless of the motivation.

  44. David Dean says:

    For those that think not putting down all your visits to the doctor in the last three years is a method, this needs to be considered; Nobody knew for sure the NSA was wiretapping our phone calls and texting, but they were. Law enforcement agencies now acknowledge the NSA shared information with them for criminal apprehension. Medical records are being digitized so they can be accessed anywhere in the country. There is a unquestionable benefit to all this, but you don’t have to be too paranoid to visualize what a computer with a list of names and SSN’s, maybe extracted from something like FAA medical applications, could discover very quickly with the right program.

  45. tbinva says:

    Mac, what about people like me and other folks who got their heart and other issues fixed? Your idea (a good one) says nothing about special issuance. Six years after a quintuple bypass, I do a stage four stress test as part of my regular exercise every Friday. I’m healthy as an ox and my cardiologist says so. Too many folks have told horror stories about special issuance, and way too few have said, no it’s not so. I’d rather have a full Private Pilot with a pass/fail physical. If all your plan gives me is another route to an expensive yearly cardiac stress test and delay that cures absolutely nothing, I’m not particularly interested.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      tbinva, I had5 bypass surgery 21yrs ago, had 2 waivers and thru in the towell. Who paid for your waivers? Sir this hold chat on the 3rd med is. if you really knew is a waste of time. The faa just showed you how untouchable they are, ref the budget deal. They threatened to shut air travel down if they didn’t get their way and congress bowed down. By the way you have no Idea of how many towers are paid for by local entities now. If fact the faa got their wish to close their doors to the pvt pilot after 9/11. Also they can’t take your lic away because you don’t agree with them It says privilege on you ticket, does that tell you something. I am working on 84 yrs young

      • tbinva says:

        Mr Freedman, you make my point better than I can. Special issuance is a swamp from which no one merges unscathed. Mac’s plan just seems to continue the current unworkable system. At my last medical I had a blockage resembling a piece of asphalt in my right coronary artery. I was 20 lbs overweight and couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without wheezing. Now, like you, I have five new pathways around the blockage and can run a mile — but I won’t pass a 3rd class medical without a special issuance. With the current system at least I can fly an LSA (if I can find one); under Mac’s plan, I’m back in the bayou. I’m 67; best regards to you, sir.

        • melvin Freedman says:

          tbinva, thanks. The LSA is just another stall in the battle. The acft look alright, but its an other failed attempt by faa. Yes their are no rentals I know of.

  46. tbinva says:

    Page 96 of Sept AOPA Pilot: What AOPA is Doing to Keep You Flying:(1) Stop “Stop and Search”; (2) FAA National Customer Forum; and (3) Obsolete FAA Test Questions. No mention of this program. The lack of demonstrated, continuing effort from our associations on an idea supported by 16 thousand of us has been bitterly disappointing. A pilot version of the medical program should already be up and running; if nothing else, it would give the FAA something to show we’re serious. As I said, I think your idea is a good one and I’ll support anything that gets this off the dime and moving again — but not if it’s just the same thing we have now by a different name. Make the third class like a flight review (every couple of years and pass/fail, at the very least) and you’ll have my full support.

  47. Kenneth Riding says:

    one thing is overlooked. The weight limit for LSA reduces safety in itself. which is safer, a starter switch, or hand propping? What reduction in strength is made to keep within the weight limits? What instrumentation is NOT INCLUDED to stay within LSA limit? I have a pacemaker, It is not a defibrillator. If it should fail, I simply would become fatigued from mild exercise. It would NOT interfere with sitting and controlling an airplane! yet I would need a waiver to fly. I repair aircraft, I hunt, I travel, I drive and stop when I need a break and live a perfectly normal life. My pacemaker is checked six times a year. Why should I be able to fly an LSA, but not a Cessna 150/152 or 172?

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Kenneth, exactley. which tells everybody that the whole med issue is a farce. But if the faa can make congress cow down, you and I are a snap.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      I am not in a much different situation but I have been told that my implanted device (for pain management) is not on the approved devices list so I have no chance of getting any sort of waiver. I asked the AOPA dept that deals with medical issues if I had any option towards approval and all I could get was that rather definitive “NO”. So although I too live a normal life and can operate any land or sea vehicle I desire, be it big or small, under any conditions of night or bad weather, I am not safe to operate a light aircraft beyond an LSA on a bright sunny day. Like you I face no sudden incompacitation if the device was to shut off, just an increased level of discomfort within a day or so that would certinly provide lots of indication that all was not well. If the FAA ever really stopped and looked at the facts as numerous commenters here have brought up, they would see the rediculusness of the 3rd class medical and probably scale back the 2nd class as well. But that does require the exercise of intelligence and reason, not common qualities in the higher levels of the FAA burocracy.

  48. tbinva says:

    I keep re-reading Mac’s proposal, thinking I must be missing something, but I don’t think I am. David Irvin, in his Facebook comment, said “Not a good way to re-pay those who bought into the program, and not a good way to maintain membership numbers.” This is at the heart of the decision I’ll be making in the near future: if this petition falls through, I’ll likely cease being an AOPA member since what flying I do will be in a theater where AOPA has little action, commitment or influence, like soaring. That would be a real shame; I’ve been a member continuously since the late 1980s. Mac’s proposal doesn’t do much for me; I just see myself being shunted into the death spiral of special issuance hell, from where I will never get to the two-year point Mac speaks of. By all means, Mac, please tell me where I’m wrong.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      You have hit the nail on the head. AOPA, along with EAA started this Request for Exemption amidst a whole lot of fanfare and publicity. Now it is in the hands of the FAA (God help Us !!!) and what are they doing as the months (now years) tick by ? They should be pulling out all the stops lobbying the FAA and Congress to get this passed and not stop until it is. Just think about how many more active pilots they could have afterwards to help boost their membership roles. But all we get is an occasional mention of their continued monitoring the of situation. If this fails and we are all still stuck with LSA and Ultralight then what have they really done for us and why would we want/need to be members. I have stayed active with AOPA for all the years that have passed since I lost the ability to hold a 3rd class (12 years now) but other then a nice magazine that I get every month they have not really earned my dues although they do bug me from time to time for charitable donations, donations that may help others but certinly not me.

      • melvin Freedman says:

        sarah, you been reading my mind, the aopa is not what those 400 thou due payers think it is.I was a mbr fr 71 to yr 2011, and I knew and know fr its inception that it buddied with faa and cherry picked what made them look good with mbrshp. This last chief, a political guy said that “we have a desk next the faa”. The last person , who told the truth about ama and the 3rmed, and told mbrs in an article in the 70s, was gone in the next addition of the mag. The eaa is really a great org, its founder and family, I am sure went through many disappoints with the faa,It unfortunate Tom Poberezny never wrote about his trials but I never met him I suspect his thoughts were to improve the airplane.

  49. melvin Freedman says:

    MAC, I like your writing when its about flying and believe it or not I am still learning. But I really just read your remarks and I am at a loss as to what a sla pilot needs to do other than have a drivers lic or other indicating he or she can see. I thought that it was up to the sla pilot to self certify.

  50. Sarah Ashmore says:

    Maybe we should look at it from a new perspective. Thanks to the Sequester the FAA is having to cut back programs and staff to stay withing their new budget. Let’s not focus on the B.S. about holding Oshkosh 2013 hostage, that does not relate to the subject at hand. I cannot think of a better cost cutting measure then to eliminate all the staff that is needed to administer the 3rd class medical program. Remember they need actual doctors for this and they do not come cheap. They could cut the OKC AeroMedical staff back significantly, just what they need to service Commercial / Business Aviation and the Airlines. Hay they already like to ignore us so they can concentrate on the Airlines anyway. We are just a distraction that has been costing them a lot of money, not to mention the annoyance of Exemption Requests and rules changes this issue has over the years. All they have to do is state that advances in medical science and our understanding of Flight Physiology no longer justify the 3rd class medical program given the current budget climate. Hasn’t that been the Administrations approach to the Sequester all along ? Make a visible specticle of cutting back services and blame the other guys for anything that goes wrong as a consequence.

    What do the rest of you think about pushing this positive spin ?

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Shara, you are right about that okla aero med setup. They actual just run through the paperwork you sumit and if it doesn’t fit there likes, its refused, dead, and also they at a wimb they can ask fr more info. By the way I think I told you that the aopa is were retired aero med docs go to retire, example the doc that writes fr aopa silberman a aDO signed my med and waivers fr 30yrs

      • Sarah Ashmore says:

        Isn’t that the way it seems to go, make a career with the government and when you retire, or at least have enough experience, shift to private industry and charge people for help in dealing with the burocracy that you were once a part of. There are a lot of former IRS people making a good living that way and as you pointed out it works for the FAA AeroMedical staff as well.

        I looked at the FAA statistics for Active Pilots and saw that roughly one third (over 200K) are Private pilots and supposedly maintain a 3rd class medical. There are a lot of Commercial Pilots as well but how many of them actuall fly for a living. If you eliminate all of the burocracy associated with processing their medicals then that is a big savings. A lot of it gets contracted out from what I understand because the FAA cannot afford to maintain a staff of specialists in the various areas. Cut back those contracts drasticly and reassign any excess civil servants and the FAA has just saved a lot of money. It would be interesting to find out what it costs the FAA to process every 3rd class medical, just the ones that pass without special consideration. Then find out what it costs to process the average Special Issuances, it might be usuful to see the relative costs there. With that pot of money saved you might be able to support a few airshows without using extortion to gain outside payment and thus getting Congress on your back. There is no group out there calling for tighter medical standards (well maybe the AMA) so who is going to fight you ?

        • melvin Freedman says:

          sarah, actually we don’t stand a chance. I have to live that thought, but I have seen enough to know that what goes around, comes around. The business of aviation will continue to struggle. Also the younger generation will be blowing their money and the taxpayers $ in those part 141 schools, thats for sure.

  51. Ted Klapka says:

    Mr. Baker – are you following this discussion? You speech on 6 September could provide a powerful rallying point. What do we want?

    To fly. With the absolute minimum of hassle and bureaucratic gatekeepers.

    I look forward to your speech.

    Jack- you are going to be there, right?

  52. Sarah Ashmore says:
    • tbinva says:

      Sarah, many thanks for the link; certainly new ideas could help. I want to think these two ideas over overnight — (1) a new type of medical/license, and (2) the second pilot idea. Not enamored of either, but the new/different medical strikes me as more workable than the second pilot idea. More tomorrow; the problem with most of the ideas so far is (1) they’re all coming from us, and nothing seems to be coming from the FAA side but NoNoNo (by that I mean the doctors; the FAA is actually silent, which is probably not good but at least it’s not a thundering final NO) (yet), and (2) all of them already exist in one form or another, in a less-than-acceptable form. Thanks for all your great input.

  53. tbinva says:

    Mac, you wrote: “But here’s the rub that worries some, or even most, in the medical certification operation. Because a pilot certificate does not expire it would be possible, if the petition is granted as requested, for a pilot to resume flying many years, or even decades, after his most recent medical exam. For example, a private pilot who hasn’t flown a minute as pilot in command for the last 30 or 40 years could take the online course and resume flying to the recreational standard without an AME ever looking at him.” My heavens! Decades! Well, first of all, there’s the BFR. Don’t do well and the CFI refuses to sign off; so it’s not just a matter of sailing willy-nilly into the clouds. Second, we’re supposed to take that online course and turn it into another version of the personal responsibility we’re supposed to be demonstrating with every flight. Third, the no-medical situation already exists with any number of forms of flight, and pilots flying in those types aren’t falling out of the sky like hail. Finally, ten years after that third class medical lapses, that same pilot will not have seen an AME for ten years; ten years after that (God willing!) it’ll have been twenty years. Ten years after that and we’re back to where this line of reasoning began; and yet for some reason this time around it’s okay? I don’t like to call names; one of my best friends works for the FAA and I know he’s honest, detail oriented and meticulous. That’s good because what he does at the FAA accompanies each and every one of us on every flight and we all utterly depend on his work. Likewise, I’m not going to make degrading comments about the AMEs or my fellow pilots. My point is that we need to respect each other and listen to one another if we’re going to get anywhere. But I will also point out that this argument is more than a bit specious; it seems to assume that a medical examination today will ensure a healthy pilot for all time to come, and that the opinion of an expert at some point in the past counts more than the opinion of the person who has to live with today’s decision to fly or not. It also appears to have more fear than reasoning in it. More tomorrow.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Tbinva, I was delegated to the right seat in my service on mission’s with men and women 10 yrs older than I, in the CAP, Nobody flew if they didn’t feel well. You are really going were nobody can answer. If a person going back to flying after a long hiatus dosen’t go to a cfi they are only an accident waiting to happen, it happens every day, the faa knows that since the begining of orvil and wilbur. Its human behavior.

      • tbinva says:

        Mr. Friedman, you’re absolutely correct. After a long hiatus from flying, it’s essential to have an experienced reviewer (CFI) take a sample of our piloting skills, which is what the BFR is all about. That’s what’s wrong here: if Mac’s proposal were put in place tomorrow (September 1, 2013) that would mean that all medicals since August 1, 2011 become valid for use in flying Light Sport once they lapse, but all earlier ones would be invalid for the purpose. What’s magic about a medical conducted on August 1, 2011 vs once conducted on July 31, 2011? or one conducted earlier? Nothing.

  54. tbinva says:

    Before this thread closes, I want to propose an idea for the third class medical in the event the FAA decides that it must continue to be part of the Private Pilot license regardless of any decision regarding light sport flying.
    The regular Third Class Medical would continue just as it is today, carried out by local AMEs and subject to post-approval review by Oklahoma City.
    But the special issuance Third Class medical would also be carried out by the same local AMEs, according to approved medical protocols (all or most of which are already published as part of the Aviation Medical Examiner’s guide). That way, the local AME would be responsible for ordering needed tests and conducting required examinations with the candidate pilot directly in front of him or her rather than hundreds or thousands of miles away. The AME would have the power to approve, deny, or postpone the decision on the pilot’s application for medical certification. The AME would then post the action to the FAA via computer.
    If approved by the AME, the FAA would then have one week to review the approval; however, the FAA could not unreasonably withhold its approval of the AME’s action. In the event the FAA takes no action, the AME’s approval would become final at the end of the seven days. The medical would then be good for two years rather than just one, and the effective start date of the certificate would be the end of the FAA’s waiting period. On day eight, and in the absence of FAA action, the pilot could pick up his or her medical certificate and go flying.
    What kind of reason would be sufficient for FAA disapproval or other action? The usual: fraud or error on the pilot’s application, changes in the state of medical practice with regard to any condition covered by special issuance protocols, etc. But no micromanaging of testing or demands for additional testing without a solid reason.
    And in the event a compelling reason for action arose at any time between medical certificate renewals, the FAA would always have the power to take action as required without waiting for renewal time to come up, just as they do now. This way the FAA would also have the ability to either take immediate action or hold action until the pilot’s next certificate renewal.
    I believe that conducting examinations with the AME and pilot facing each other, and with the added requirement that approval not be withheld by Oklahoma City without a reason that is visible and obvious to everyone involved in the process, would go a long way to easing the tension between pilots and the agency. While this idea might seem naive, it could go a long way toward restoring predictability and stability, things sorely missing from the process today. Finally, I’ve actually seen a solution very much like this work spectacularly in the real world and that’s why I’m bringing it to your attention.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      Now that is a very well thought out idea to streamline the 3rd class medical. It minimizes the requirements for FAA (actually contractor) resources and in a time a tight budgets they need to streamline non-essential functions. Medical Certification is no where near as important as ATC and the 3rd class is a joke as has been well documented already. It is time the FAA decentralizes the process and let the AME (who is a doctor after all) in direct contact with the applicant make the decisions in accordance with established protocols. This might even work for 2nd and 1st class by extension but that might be too much too soon for an entrenched burocracy.

  55. tbinva says:

    Sigh. So much for HTML tags and attributes. EM was at the beginning of each paragraph (with the required greater-than and less-than signs) to indent the start of paragraphs but instead turned into Italic; and I for italic just disappeared entirely. Sorry, everyone. I do this stuff for a living — but apparently not tonight.

    • melvin Freedman says:

      Hey tbinva. I just punched up aviation E brief(aopa), The av industry is getting off the, we like the faa, sounds like their upset, I am not to thrilled with the av industry, never read were they commented on the 3rd class med, what goes around comes around

  56. tbinva says:

    I’m gonna throw two more cents’ worth in and then I’m probably done.

    First, I think the FAA should raise the weight limit on light sport to 1700 pounds. The Cessna 152, Piper Tomahawk, and Beech Skipper all come in a max of 1670 or so, and are still within current horsepower limits and stall speed limits. There are probably a few others that fall within this range but not so many of them are in the rental fleet. This would permit expansion of light sport in a narrower band than the proposal, perhaps enough so for the FAA to accept it as the next step.

    Second, after spending the week looking at Part 67 and the 2013 Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners (GAME, an apt acronym if there ever was one), it appears to me that the FAA should entertain extending the Statement Of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) to certain currently disqualifying conditions within the 3rd class medical. SODA permits an AME to issue a certificate for certain conditions that would normally be disqualifying but are not progressing. In several places it says that SODAs are not issued for disqualifying conditions, but there is nothing in Part 67 that commands FAA to take this stance; it appears simply to be FAA policy, and that is something that can be changed without vast amounts of effort. Everything else about the SODA fits the needs of many of the pilots (including me) who have written to criticize special issuance, particularly with respect to stents and bypass grafts. If the FAA wants to hold on to the third class medical, this would afford a way to do it with minimal disruption to the existing system. Looking for a compromise? The FAA needs to compromise as well. This could do it; I look forward to hearing others’ opinions.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      I too spent some time looking at the 2013 Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners and I can see several conditions that seem to trouble them which would seem to be a joke. Top of the list is Sleep Apnea, are they afraid someone will fall asleep at the controls and have an episode of the condition ??? It is a wonder that anybody over 50 can pass a 3rd class when you consider the long list of conditions that they need special information provided before they can pass judgement. It would be interesting to see how their list has changed over the years, my guess is an never ending cycle of expansion as new “conditions” get discovered and then documented in the medical journals. The list of observations that should be made to detect possible mental illness were a good laugh, kind of a good description of many of the homeless people seen living on the streets however I doubt many are applying for a 3rd class medical.

  57. tbinva says:

    Sarah, I think you hit the nail right on the head. I actually counted up the number of conditions covered by the Guide, and it comes to 208. Sure, I might have missed a couple of maybe even a few, but if I made an error it’s that I didn’t count enough and it doesn’t change the overall proportions:

    There are 13 conditions an AME can screen, fix, and rescreen on his or her own; 52 an AME can screen in a minor way but then has to pass off to Oklahoma City (including 8 that OKC can approve and then pass back to the AME as AASIs). There are a total of 29 conditions, all of which but one can become AASIs (that’s ‘AME-Assisted Special Issuances’ for those readers not yet acronym-friendly). The whopper is the 125 conditions that are solely within the FAA’s purview. In fairness, some of those should be approved directly by OKC. But you’re right — you can’t hit 50 years of age without tripping over at least a couple, and those particular ones don’t strike me as so important that only a highly trained specialist in Oklahoma (where, I guess, is the only place those particular specialists exist) can tell whether a single engine land VFR pilot a few hundred miles away can cope with the condition or not for an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon . . .

    A hundred and twenty five. Judas Priest.

    • Sarah Ashmore says:

      Those specialists you elude to probably do not exist in OKC either. As I understand it all that medical specialist work is contracted out and I am not sure how many (if any) of the FAA staff in OKC are doctors of any sorts. Frankly I doubt that the FAA could begin to pay those specialists enough to work for them full time vs private practice, they might even be retired and doing this on the side to get a bit of extra money on the side. What we have is a bunch of doctors with nice fat lucrative contracts working for the FAA to pass judjement on all these piles of paperwork. If they approve everything (and most probably should be) then they start to look extraneous and could risk loosing that nice fat contract. It would be nice to know how much they get paid to look over that pile and make a decision, both on a single case and annually for their contract. And they do not even have to worry about the liability of medical malpractice since they are not really providing a diagnosis that would effect the person in question (just ground them !!!). Maybe it is not an FAA burocracy that is the enemy but those doctors that the FAA contracts out the decision making to. They have a good thing going and the more their use is expanded, the more money in their pockets so we get an ever expanding list of conditions that require their services and enough denials to prove they are not rubber stamping the pile and going back to their golf game.

      • melvin Freedman says:

        Sarah, Tbinva, checkout the EAA sport aviat mag sep issue page 11. Another ploy by the ama and faa to keep the money flowing for the docs.

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