Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced a bill in the U.S. House Wednesday that seeks to abolish the third-class medical certificate for many pilots who fly recreationally. The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013 (HR 3708), co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Richard Hanna (R-NY), would require pilots who fly recreationally to hold a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third-class medical certificate and operate under specific limitations. EAA and other aviation associations worked with Rep. Rokita to develop and promote this legislation as part of a continuing commitment to lowering barriers to aviation participation. “This legislation addresses two goals EAA has long advocated: eliminating excess red tape in the medical certification process while maintaining a safe way to keep pilots flying,” said Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board. “Our members and the general aviation community have long supported a change in the medical certification process. This proposal will maintain safety, reduce costs for pilots and the federal government, and allow people to pursue the unique freedom of flight in the same way they can pursue other powered recreational activities.” 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 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. “The third-class medical certificate does little to evaluate the day-to-day fitness of pilots flying recreationally,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “There are better ways to maintain high medical standards for aviation and allow individuals the freedom to enjoy the world of flight.” As Congress this week winds down its 2013 session, EAA, AOPA, and other groups will be urging their members to voice their support to their elected officials later in January, to ensure the message isn’t lost during the holiday recess. Stay tuned for ways that you can participate in letting Congress know the importance of this measure to the future of flight in the U.S. The bill continues EAA’s effort to maintain aviation safety while growing participation in aviation. EAA and other aviation groups have regularly petitioned the FAA for medical certification updates and changes, most recently in the joint EAA/AOPA third-class medical certificate exemption request in March 2012. The FAA has yet to move on the request, despite more than 16,000 supportive comments to the docket during the public comment period – a fact not lost on members of Congress who have been monitoring the issue. EAA is grateful for the support of Congress on this issue, which is critical to pilots everywhere, and will work tirelessly toward passage of the bill.
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