White House makes it easier for private pilots to complete medical exams

White House makes it easier for private pilots to complete medical exams
© Greg Nash

The White House finalized a rule on Tuesday that will make it easier for private pilots to complete medical exams that are necessary for flying, delivering a major win for the general aviation industry.

The regulation, known as “BasicMed,” allows private pilots to fly without holding a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate as long as they have held a medical certificate in the last ten years and have a valid driver’s license.

Pilots will still be required to undergo a medical examination every four years and complete a medical education course under the new rule.

ADVERTISEMENT

But officials say the process will be easier and cheaper for pilots because they can have their medical form signed by a family physician, instead of having to undergo a physical examination with an FAA-designated aviation medical examiner.

“They have a relationship with their regular physicians, see them on a regular basis,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said on a press call with reporters. “So it’s essentially providing pilots the flexibility to maintain that relationship with their regular physician without making a special appointment to see another one who may only be seeing them every five years and might not be as familiar with their medical history.”

Huerta emphasized that the rule is not lowering the medical standards for private pilots, but instead providing an “alternative path” for them to complete necessary medical exams.

BasicMed only covers pilots operating aircraft that weigh less than 6,000 pounds and have a maximum of six passengers on board, including the pilot.

Congress required the FAA to draft the regulation in a short-term aviation bill last summer.

The general aviation industry has been pushing for so-called third-class medical reform for years, despite heavy opposition from the airline pilots union.

“BasicMed is the best thing to happen to general aviation in decades,” said Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “By putting medical decisions in the hands of pilots and their doctors, instead of the FAA, these reforms will improve safety while reducing burdensome and ineffective bureaucracy that has thwarted participation in general aviation.”