Reforming (or eliminating) the aging Third Class Medical process has been the dream of aviation organizations and individual pilots for years. Most pilots agree that it does little to improve safety but it does an awful lot to discourage new pilots from entering aviation. Since we all self-certify our fitness to fly for 3-5 years in between medical exams, why not make that permanent and do away with the paperwork?
This reform seems closer than ever, thanks to a lot of lobbying from a lot of aviation organizations. Sen. James Inhofe has been pushing his “Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2” and it has now attracted 67 Senate co-sponsors and 140 House co-sponsors. But as usual, the devil is in the details. Some last-minute changes, which were necessary to get all those co-sponsors, may fundamentally change the nature of the reform.
For one, all new pilots will have to get a Third Class Medical when they begin flying. This is to establish a “benchmark condition” for pilots, but future visits to an Aviation Medical Examiner will not be necessary. Any pilot who has received a valid medical in the last 10 years meets this requirement. In addition, all pilots must see their family doctor every four years, but the results of that visit do not have to be shared with the FAA.
AOPA and EAA both support this new legislation, claiming it is the best possible reform on the table. While it may not be perfect, it would allow thousands of pilots to fly without seeing an AME. It also might pave the way for even more changes in the future.
What do you think? Is this new bill, even in its modified form, a big step forward? Or is it no better than the current system?
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