ALPA Moves To Block Medical Reform Bill

Just when it appeared third-class medical reform might finally be within legislative reach, airline pilots have held up their hands to say not so fast.

The Air Line Pilots Association is staging an 11th-hour p.r. campaign aimed at derailing the key provisions of the Pilots' Bill of Rights 2, legislation aimed at eliminating third-class medicals for most private pilots in favor of self-health assessments.

In a letter to lawmakers on Friday, ALPA wrote that its members have "grave concerns" about sharing the same airspace with "medically unfit pilots" who would be given "unfettered access to the national airspace up to 18,000 feet."

An amendment to a pending highway bill filed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) last week seeks to tack on the third-class medical reform language before Congress heads out of town for its summer recess on July 31. ALPA says it's opposed to the amendment being added to a surface transportation bill, preferring that medical reform be a part of the broader discussion about FAA reauthorization, which has been pushed off until September.

The amendment looked as though it was gaining serious momentum until ALPA's sudden denunciation. The leadership at AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association, who've been fighting tooth and nail for the legislation for more than a year and who say they haven't heard a peep from ALPA on the issue until now, are fuming.

""The rhetoric from ALPA is most disappointing and utterly out of step with the rest of the general aviation and airline pilot community," said EAA president Jack Pelton. "Why it would turn its back on the community that inspires, supplies, and trains its professional aviators is baffling, especially when the vast majority of statistics and opinions by safety professionals, regulators, and other pilots agree that ALPA's position has no basis and makes no sense."

AOPA and EAA are urging members to contact Congress to support third-class medical reform before the July 31 deadline. Failing that, there is still hope that the Pilots' Bill of Rights 2, which was introduced last year by Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) and has garnered 55 co-sponsors in the Senate and 118 in the House, could resurface in the fall.

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