Third Class Medical Reform

  Steve WolfNov 30, 2016  

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Congress finally passed third class medical reform into law last July.  They gave the FAA one year to implement the law.

The latest FAAST Blast from the FAA includes this paragraph, entitled FAA Making Progress on New Pilot Medical Qualifications:

The FAA is working to implement Section 2307 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-190), Medical Certification of Certain Small Aircraft Pilots. In the Act, Congress outlined an alternative medical qualification in lieu of holding an FAA medical certificate. The FAA must draft rules to meet the Congressional mandate. We have reached out to the general aviation community, including groups which have expressed a desire to partner with the FAA during the implementation. We look forward to working with them to successfully implement the provisions of Section 2307 on time.

When I run that paragraph through my personal government-ese filter, I see:

We don’t want to enact medical reform, but we have to.  AOPA and EAA keep bugging us asking about our progress.  Quit asking already!  We’re going to drag our feet and take every minute of the full year we’ve been allocated.

Their “progress” report doesn’t report any progress, except that they’ve talked with the alphabet groups (I would guess it’s actually the other way around, with the alphabet groups talking to them).  Everything else is presented in future tense.

I renewed my third class medical a couple months ago.  I realize this was probably the last FAA medical I’ll ever have, and it feels good.  No longer will I have to fear that inexplicable Sport Pilot Catch-22: If I let my medical expire, I am free to fly Sport Pilot as long as I can self-certify that I am medically fit to do so; but if I submit to and fail a third class medical exam, I can’t ever fly Sport Pilot.

AOPA and EAA have both written extensively about what they believe the medical reform will look like, including seeing our family doctor from time to time, so I won’t duplicate all that here.  Both organizations deserve a hearty pat on the back: they persistently bulldogged this through the legislative process; they consulted on the inevitable compromises; they helped keep reform on track without the bill crippling its original intent.