Third-Class Medical Reform Heads to the White House

President Obama expected to sign FAA extension measure into law by tomorrow.

White House FAA
An FAA reauthorization bill that includes third-class medical reform is expected to be signed into law by the president this week.Wikimedia Commons/Cezary p

Just two days before the FAA’s current extension expires, the Senate passed the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016, a measure that will authorize FAA operations through September 2017. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law ahead of the FAA’s July 15 cutoff.

A huge win for general aviation, the bill includes third-class medical reform language. Under the new provisions, pilot self-certification and recurrent online aeromedical training will replace medical exams.

“This is the most significant legislative victory for general aviation in decades,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “These reforms will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of pilots from an outdated, costly and unnecessarily burdensome system. This legislation will strengthen the private pilot-private-physician relationship and improve awareness of medical issues throughout our community. It will help pilots save time, money and frustration.”

Once the bill is signed into law, the FAA would have one year to iron out the new third-class medical provisions before they take effect, though aviation industry insiders predict the FAA will adopt the new standards sooner, perhaps within six months.

Under the new provisions, pilots holding current driver’s licenses and third-class medicals would never need to see an AME again. Instead, they would be required to visit their personal physician once every four years and make a notation in their logbook, as well as complete an online aeromedical factors test every two years and medically self-certify their fitness before each flight.

Pilots will be allowed to operate airplanes weighing up to 6,000 pounds and having up to five passenger seats, plus the pilot in command, at altitudes below 18,000 feet msl and at speeds of up to 250 knots. Pilots, if appropriately rated, can fly VFR or IFR but not for compensation or hire.

Pilots whose medicals or special issuances have expired less than 10 years before the legislation’s enactment will also be permitted to fly without seeing an AME. If it’s been longer than 10 years since you’ve held a valid medical, or if you’ve never held a medical, you will need to see an AME once for a medical, after which you can adhere to the new rules.