Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Back in 2014, I introduced legislation that would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reform general aviation medical standards to maintain safety while supporting capable pilots and sustaining economic growth in the industry.

The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act sought to expand on the success of FAA’s Sport Pilot rule, adopted in 2004, that allows pilots to fly many types of small, light aircraft without a third class medical certificate, but requires all pilots to undergo a flight review by a certified flight instructor every two years.

My general aviation measure was included in a larger bill, the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, and is a win for pilots who want to continue flying their small aircraft in an enjoyable and safe manner.

The FAA recently announced that, starting May 1, pilots will be able to take advantage of the regulatory relief provided under the "BasicMed" rule which was formulated based on guidance from the language I authored.

It’s important to note that many general aviation pilots fly small, authorized aircraft carrying no more than six occupants and have a certified takeoff weight of not more than 6,000 pounds. General aviation pilots fly small aircraft for leisure and are not engaging in commercial activity. It makes sense to afford these types of pilots some flexibility related to their certifications while still meeting reasonable safety standards.

Under the new BasicMed rule, general aviation pilots will be required to complete a medical education course and undergo a comprehensive medical examination every four years. Previously, even small aircraft pilots had to obtain the FAA third class medical certificate, meaning they were required to undergo a physical examination by an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner which was valid for five years for pilots under age 40 but only for two years for those who are age 40 and over, along with other requirements.

The BasicMed rule will still require pilots to meet some essential medical and safety standards, but it will not hold them to same standards as pilots who fly much larger aircraft for mostly non-recreational purposes. This is a practical reform as there is no need to require general aviation pilots to go through the same burdensome process as commercial airline pilots.

I’m pleased that the FAA implemented this rule that will help small aircraft pilots continue to fly as a hobby. Many of them get a great deal of pleasure out of being able to take to the skies alone or with a small group of friends or family and this regulatory relief will allow them to continue doing so safely in the years to come. This will also have a positive economic impact as it serves to strengthen the general aviation industry.