FAA Medical Reform Becomes a Reality!
On July 15, 2016, the president signed into law the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. This legislation extends current FAA programs through Sept. 30, 2017, and includes funding for the Airport Improvement Program. In addition to federal funding for our grant program, the statute contains several other important measures, one of which is the long awaited third class medical reform.
Third Class Medical Reform Explained
For several years, the general aviation community has been pursuing changes to the FAA medical requirements that currently exist. The current system can be time consuming, costly, and has been shown to have little, if any, positive impact on flight safety. Beginning July 15, 2017, the vast majority of general aviation pilots who have held a valid medical certificate 10 years prior to the date of the act (July 25, 2016) will no longer need the FAA approved medical examination. The 10-year lookback applies to both regular and special issuance medicals.
There are a few conditions which apply: (1) pilots who have never held an FAA medical certificate, including student pilots, will need to go through the process one time only; (2)after meeting the initial requirements to fly under the reforms, pilots will need to visit a state-licensed physician at least once every four years and take a free online course on aeromedical factors every two years; (3) pilots whose most recent medical was revoked, suspended, withdrawn or denied will need to obtain a new FAA medical certificate before they can operate under the reforms.
A pilot meeting the above requirements will be permitted to fly non-commercial VFR or IFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6000 pounds, having no more than 6 seats, no higher than 18,000 feet and at a maximum airspeed of 250 knots.
For more information, visit TxDOT Aviation Division’s website at http://txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/aviation.html.
Other important measures included in the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 are:
- Direction for the FAA to establish marking requirements for covered towers between 50 and 200 feet in height in non-urban areas.
- Formation of a “Working Group on Improving Air Service to Small Communities”.
- New unmanned aerial system (drone) safety provision.
- Security reforms in the wake of the two recent major airport attacks.
- Provisions aimed at easing security wait times at airports.