Third-Class Medical Reform – What does it mean for you?


On July 15, 2016, as part of the Budgeting Act to fund the FAA, legislation was passed that included the Pilot’s Bill of Rights II.

This included medical reform for certain private pilots, an alternative to the third-class medical exam.

This legislation was due to the efforts of the AOPA and EAA.

I hope to answer some of those questions I had when I reviewed the legislation, and voice some concerns or unanswered questions.

There are some areas that were expanded to our benefit, but one substantial limitation from the original “driver’s license” medical originally proposed.

Regular exams are still required with your own doctor, every four years.

Further, the FAA still has six months to add their regulations and procedures on how to make this happen.

  1. Who Qualifies? An individual holding a driver’s license, who has had a medical certificate issued by an FAA medical examiner within the last ten years. The most recent application for a medical examination may not have been withdrawn or denied. It is okay that the medical has expired, as long as it was issued within ten years, and it must not have been revoked or suspended.
  2. What Are My Obligations to Qualify? If you do not have a current medical, you must have completed a medical education course (to be developed), and completed a “comprehensive medical examination from a state licensed physician.” I could not find a definition of a “physician,” and am looking into who might qualify as an appropriate physician. When your current third-class medical expires, you will need to complete the medical course online and have your personal physician complete an exam. Then, every 2 years you will have to complete the online course, and every 4th year, complete the course, print out a sheet and see your doctor.
  3. What is the Extent of the Exam Required Every 48 Months? The airmen must complete a checklist, which is still being developed. You then provide that checklist to your own physician. The physician must review that checklist with the applicant and perform a “comprehensive medical examination,” in accordance with the checklist. The full extent of the examination is still to be determined, but it will involve 22 separate items a physician must cover, which concludes with “anything else the physician in his/her medical judgment, considers necessary.” It also appears a physician can order tests and must discuss all drugs that the applicant might be taking. Further, the doctor must sign a statement that he certifies you are safe to operate an aircraft.
  4. What Are the Limitations? You cannot carry more than five passengers (applicable to flying a six-passenger aircraft only). Must be at or below 18,000 feet, within the U.S. and not exceed 250 knots indicated. It is not clear whether the aircraft cannot be capable exceeding 250 knots, or if the aircraft is capable of that, you must restrict operations to 250 knots. But, the new medical can apply without limitation to the number of engines, horsepower or gear type.
  5. When Can I Start Relying Upon The New Procedure? It looks like it will be sometime in January 2017, before the new procedure can take effect. The legislation states that no later than 180 days after the passage of the Bill, the FAA must issue or revise regulations to ensure that you can operate an aircraft under the new standards that would be January 15, 2017. If your medical expires before that date, you will have to see an AME and obtain a new medical certificate (if you want to continue to fly) or wait until the FAA has issued their regulations procedures. We will have to wait to see what regulations are developed by the FAA.
  6. Can I Still Just Go to an AME? Yes. Any pilot flying for compensation and hire will need a second-class medical, or for aircraft exceeding the limitations, will need at least a third-class medical. The prior procedures remain in effect, and this legislation provides an additional way to qualify to act as pilot of command of certain aircraft. You can always elect to see an AME every two years and obtain a third-class medical. Further, if you are a new pilot or your last medical was more than ten years ago (before July 15, 2006), you need to get an exam with an AME.
  7. Can I Qualify If I Have Had a Special Issuance Medical? Yes. This may be who benefits the most from the new regulations, especially if you can get a licensed physician to say you are safe to fly.
  8. What Issues Do I See As Being Unanswered? The liability of your physician, and whether or not they will be willing to sign the statement. What about medical programs, such as Kaiser? Will their doctors be willing or allowed to sign the statements? Is there language in some insurance policies that might require an AME issued medical certificate?
  9. What Are My Obligations After Completing The Examination? You must keep the checklist and document signed by the physician in your logbook and make it available upon request.

Hopefully, this will evolve into real reform and not just more ways of doing something, that is as cumbersome as the prior exams with an AME.

To learn more, please call Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) today.

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