FAA Adopts Third-Class Medical Reform Rule

New FAR Part 68, known as BasicMed, goes into effect on May 1, 2017.

FAA Third Class Medical
The FAA's third-class medical reform rule goes into effect May 1.Shutterstock

Pilots operating under Part 91 who have held an FAA medical certificate within the past 10 years will soon have an alternative, voluntary means to certify they are healthy enough to fly, the agency announced today.

The FAA said it supports the new rule called BasicMed because it "will simplify our regulations and keep general aviation flying affordable." BasicMed, written into a new Part 68 of the FARs that takes effect May 1, 2017, means pilots will be able to fly certain aircraft without holding a medical certificate, providing they comply with a number of FAA provisions.

The BasicMed rule requires pilots opting to use the no-medical-certificate route possess a valid driver’s license and have completed a medical education course within the previous 24 months. The rule also restricts pilots to operating airplanes carrying no more than six people and weighing no more than 6,000 pounds — rotorcraft and turbine-powered are included — but below 18,000 feet and not faster than 250 kias. Both VFR and IFR day/night operations are permitted under the new rules.

Under BasicMed, pilots will still be required to undergo a medical examination every four years, although the doctor necessary to conduct the exam need not be an FAA medical examiner. The agency is referring pilots to the AOPA website for the required aeromedical course and has no plans to develop a separate course of its own. You don't need to be an AOPA member to take the free course.

To be eligible for BasicMed, you must have held a valid FAA medical certificate, including a special issuance medical, within the previous 10 years. If you have not held a medical in the last 10 years or have never held a medical, you'll need to visit an AME once to obtain a third-class medical certificate, after which you become eligible for BasicMed.

While the FAA is amending Parts 61 and 91 to reflect the changes, the new rule will not apply to pilots flying for compensation or hire. Flight instructors are eligible for BasicMed and can fly without a third-class medical under the new rules.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “We think we’re providing an alternative path to the traditional medical certificate.” This new alternative will “help the airman meet the appropriate level of safety. You can only use BasicMed if you previously held a medical.”