FAA Apologizes for Driver’s License Medical Delay

Cessna 172 in flight

A Cessna 172 performing maneuvers. [FLYING Archives]

The FAA has been dragging its heels on the issue of driver's license medicals for private pilots for the better part of two years, but the proposal might finally get the attention it deserves.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta recently sent a letter to AOPA apologizing for the delay in the association's request to expand driver's license medicals from sport pilots to many private pilots. In the letter, sent on December 26, Huerta said a review of the petition has taken longer than anticipated to give the agency time to “ensure that such an unprecedented change will not result in any adverse impact that could lead to degradation in safety.”

Almost two years have elapsed since AOPA and EAA submitted a joint petition that would expand the use of driver's license medicals. As the issue festered without any action from the FAA, individuals made 16,000 comments voicing opinions about the original proposal and Congress stepped in.

On December 11, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and GA Caucus Co-Chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act. The legislation would allow pilots to use their driver's licenses in lieu of third-class medicals for noncommercial VFR flights in airplanes weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats. Pilots would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, fly at altitudes below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots.

That's more liberal than the original AOPA/EAA proposal, which would have applied to private pilots flying day VFR in airplanes with four seats and carrying just one passenger. Despite the administrator's apology, AOPA noted that it remains unclear when the agency will make a final decision on the proposal.

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