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Congress moves on pilot self certification

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Congress is addressing the concept of medical self-certification for non-commercial pilots with legislation to expand the FAA’s third class medical to allow an exemption.

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With the apparent failure of the Sport Pilot Rule passed in 2004 that allowed pilots to use a valid driver’s license to fly “Light Sport Aircraft” members of the Senate General Aviation Caucus are promoting the legislation to allow make noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats exempt from the third-class medical process.

Not only will the new medical self-certification save the government money in a reduction of exam paperwork and communications and database entry it will allow pilots to fly their own aircraft.

The Sport Pilot rules intended to encourage and allow pilots to train and fly for fewer hours and less money only allowed flying specific lighter, slower, two-place only aircraft that were priced from $100, 000 to $225,000 new. In the early 2000s ultralight flying was the fastest growing sector of aviation. Sport Pilot rules and new regulation failed to attract the same manner of interest, although it allow for medical self-certification.

Both the House and the Senate GA Caucus have support for the measures introduced on March 11, 2014 by the leadership of Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan) who introduced identical measures in the Senate. All three Senators are member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus.

The Senate bill mirrors the language of the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act introduced by Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association members Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and GA Caucus Co-Chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in December, according to the AOPA.

The proposed legislation allows for the use of a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third class medical but only if the flights are not for compensation, conducted in VFR operation only, at or below 14,000 feet MSL, no faster than 250 knots, in an aircraft with no more than six seats with a takeoff weight of no more than 6,000 pounds.

The Experimental Aircraft Association, AOPA and the Alaska Airmen Association are in support of the exemption and the details of the legislation.

Rob Stapleton can be reached at: robstapleton(at)alaska (dot)net