Monday, January 3, 2011

FAA Medical To Go Bye-Bye?

There've been some rumblings recently that the FAA is unofficially taking a look at the private medical requirement for pilot licensing.
 Janice Wood, writing for General Aviation News, cites the efforts of an airport owner/operator, David Wartofsky, to petition the Secretary of Transportation to replace the FAA's 3rd class medical with a driver's license for private aircraft weighing under 6,000 lbs.
Mr. Wartofsky makes some salient points, and calls the eventual loss of 3rd class medicals that all pilots face as "the greatest threat to aircraft ownership". 
I've never thought there'd be a snowball's chance in a blast furnace of the medical being removed, but there are compelling reasons to do just that -- or amend the current rule to conform with the lesser medical requirement of a state driver's license, such as requiring vision-corrective glasses when flying.  How many drivers in 4,000 lb. cars who barely passed their driver's license requirements whizz by you head-on at a closing speed of 120 mph? 
Some of the downsides of the 3rd class medical:
* High costs to manage the system
* overkill on the 3rd class requirements for physical health, which are equivalent to those required for a Commercial Driver's License...while a light plane is equivalent in its potential crash impact to a passenger car.
* Statistics show that barely 1% of all general aviation accidents are medically related. 
* Light Sport statistics, since the rule came into effect in 2004, reflect the same ratio of medical to all other causes of aviation mishaps, which supports Wartofsky's contention that a 3rd class medical is no more necessary for light planes than for LSA.
* Another point on the LSA side of the equation: many owners are baby boomers who fly LSA rather than run the risk of losing their 3rd class medicals.
Wartofsky's petition, which you can view and sign here, was published by DOT as required by law...and then buried by a comment period open until 2099!  Sneaky sneaky, DOT!
Pilots can get involved by adding comments to the petition and contacting their representatives in the House and Senate to support the petition.
As Wood states, the objective is to force a full re-evaluation of the need for a 3rd class medical through an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).


Ben said...

I think that he makes a lot of points. You see old people in 5000 lb cars all the time. Why shouldn't they be allowed to fly? There aren't any pedestrians in the sky. :)

Stop the back pain and the articulations said...
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