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March 11, 2014 – Three U.S. senators Tuesday introduced the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act as a companion bill to one unveiled in the House of Representatives in December, which includes a provision that would reform airman medical certificate standards while maintaining safety.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) co-sponsored the bill that provides a solution to a long-standing hurdle of burdensome medical certificate standards for pilots who fly recreationally. In March 2012, EAA and AOPA requested an exemption that would ease third-class medical requirements for pilots flying certain types of aircraft, but the FAA has not to date taken action on that request despite more than 16,000 comments received in favor of the proposal.

“I urge the FAA to work with our pilots, respond to these reasonable petitions, and provide additional flexibility,” Sen. Boozman said when introducing the legislation. “If the FAA continues to delay, this bill will start the discussion toward a legislative solution.”

In announcing the bill, Sen. Boozman also noted that current regulations require private pilots flying aircraft for recreational purposes to have a third-class medical certificate. Over the last decade, 60,000 pilots left the industry, many due to the costly and time consuming process of obtaining a medical certificate. This bill expands on the success of FAA’s sport pilot regulations that were adopted in 2004 and allow pilots to fly many types of small, light aircraft without a third-class medical certificate but require that all pilots undergo a flight review by a certified flight instructor every two years. During these biennial flight reviews, instructors will continue to evaluate each pilot’s physical and cognitive condition, as well as his or her ability to safely operate an aircraft.

The proposed legislation would allow pilots to use a valid state driver’s license in place of the traditional medical certificate if the flights are:

  • Not for compensation
  • Conducted in VFR operations only, at or below 14,000 feet MSL
  • No faster than 250 knots
  • In aircraft with no more than six seats and no more than 6,000 pounds gross takeoff weight.

In addition to allowing pilots to operate common GA aircraft for personal and recreational flying without a third-class medical, the bill mandates that the FAA prepare and send a report to Congress detailing the impact of the bill’s passage on general aviation safety within five years of the bill’s enactment.

“We appreciate the senators’ attention and action on this issue that has negatively affected many pilots,” said Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board. “It is time to use the positive safety experience gained from a decade of sport pilot activity – as well as such flying activities as gliders and ballooning – to establish medical certification reforms that will sustain and grow general aviation in this country.”

The House bill, H.R. 3708, was introduced in December by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO). To date that bill has gained 52 co-sponsors and continues to gather support.

 

Originally found on EAA’s website.

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