Third-Class Medical Bill Passes Senate Committee

Legislation moves to full Senate.

Cessna Skyhawk
Cessna SkyhawkTextron Aviation

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has passed the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2, legislation that would make it possible for most private pilots to continue flying without ever again having to obtain a medical certificate.

The legislation, which appears to have strong support in the Senate but has a less certain fate in the House, eliminates the need for private pilots to obtain a third class medical certificate, provided the aircraft they fly weighs no more than 6,000 pounds, has no more than five passenger seats (plus the pilot seat), and remains below altitudes of 18,000 feet and speeds of 250 knots. Pilots, if appropriately rated, can fly VFR or IFR, day or night, single or twin, in qualified aircraft.

New student pilots would need to obtain a third-class medical to set a baseline of health, as would pilots whose medicals expired more than 10 years from enactment of the law. Pilots with special issuance medicals would also need a one-time exam from an Aviation Medical Examiner.

After that, those pilots could fly indefinitely without ever obtaining an FAA medical again. Pilots with current medicals also would never need to visit an AME again.

However, all pilots would be required to visit their personal doctor and supply the physician with a checklist of things to test for. The FAA would never see the results; instead, the pilot would simply make a logbook entry stating the exam had been performed.

Lastly, all pilots would be required to medically self-assess their fitness to fly (which is actually a current regulation) as well as take a free online aeromedical training course once every two years.

"This is great news for the pilot community because it brings us closer than ever to meaningful third class medical reform," said AOPA President Mark Baker. "Bringing the legislation this far has required persistence and compromise in order to get the very best possible deal for pilots while winning the support needed to keep medical reform on the table. Today's action signals that lawmakers are continuing to move legislation that will help hundreds of thousands of pilots fly safely while saving them millions of dollars and countless hours now wasted on the medical certification process."