FAA to Formally Study Drivers License Medicals

Under pressure from user groups and Congress, the FAA has announced it is pursuing a rulemaking project to implement proposed medical certification rules that would in many cases allow pilots to fly without the third class medical certificate that is currently required.

To industry observers, the FAA release seemed consistent with a response by an agency under pressure to make significant changes to an increasingly unpopular medical certification process. At the same time, the announcement failed to say what changes would be embraced by a new rule and how long it would take get it to the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) stage.

Details are expected to be announced later this month, but if the FAA follows the recommendations from the user groups, it is likely that pilots will be allowed to fly with an approved drivers license and a self assessment of flight fitness (as we pilots in essence already do every time we fly) as proof of medical qualification. User groups have suggested the inclusion of pilots flying single-engine airplanes with powerplants rated up to 180 horsepower for non-commercial flights under VFR conditions. Flying has strongly criticized the proposal that pilots flying under the new standards be restricted from flying IFR, a restriction we have called pointless and counter to industry safety goals.

The decision to go forward has come two years after pilot user groups petitioned the agency to allow for such an exemption. A similar revision to the medical certification rules was introduced late last year to the House of Representatives under the General Aviation Pilots Protection Act.

Flying will have full details as soon as the FAA makes its official announcement.

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