WELL – It’s been two weeks Friday since we launched this Blog. As I mentioned in the first post, I plan on responding every two weeks targeting one issue that seems to be of greatest interest unless you want more. Got off to a slow start with two questions the first week then sped up a bit in week two. I’m guessing I may be responding weekly to cover your concerns. By the end of week two I thought I was watching a string on the forum as Robert and Thomas discussed the merits of the value of a third class medical.
I’ll grab a couple of items to respond to now from the last two weeks, such as third class medicals and AOPA products and services.
I will do a mid-week response to some of the other topics. So, watch for that response.
Third Class Medicals
Some background is necessary since I am particularly proud of AOPA initiatives on the AeroMedical front. I’ll keep it short – AOPA’s medical certification assistance services have been under my area of authority for many, many, years. It began with one person who knew quite a lot about airman medical certification and was available to answer member questions, just as we do with other kinds of aviation questions.
The department grew over the years as members aged and resulting pathologies increased. AOPA became known for providing productive assistance, and the need for a proactive and cooperative working relationship with FAA AeroMedical became obvious if we were to achieve beneficial results. There is not a single aviation organization, GA or otherwise, that provides the airman medical services and advocacy that AOPA does. A few years ago we reorganized our efforts to separate our staff resources so we could focus simultaneously on assisting member pilots and developing a regulatory/legislative group to work longer term issues with the expert assistance of our medical staff.
This timing was perfect. A number of years ago I went to a meeting of flight physicians with Gary Crump who is our medical Director. I would finally “meet the enemy” and could voice my opinion on how IT should be. Turned out, this new group had the same interest that Gary and I did – How do we keep pilots flying safely and what can be changed to make this happen? It began a long and productive relationship.
Flash forward – AOPA now has 12 staffers educated to assist pilots with general medical issues, four staffers (and growing) dedicated full-time to advanced medical questions, a Board of AeroMedical Advisors who are highly credentialed physicians, and relationships with institutions such as the Mayo Clinic. We are unsurpassed in expertise.
So much for thumbnail history and some chest pounding.
More on topic – Shakespeare, if he were a pilot, might have said “to be or not to be subject to third class medical, “ that is the question. As the opposing opinions on this blog show, views are split rather evenly between members. The bottom line is that there is no evidence that a third class medical increases the safety to pilots or passengers in the air, or persons or property on the ground. The current exam interval for pilots under 40 is five years, age 40 and older is two years. Between exams, pilots are still bound to self-grounding and most are aware of this rule, though some education still needs to be done. But, the data is what it is. And since opinions on this are passionate, AOPA’s position has to be on the side of the data.
With the implementation of the under-40-5-year rule that AOPA championed, we have seen no change in accident data. We have watched the LSA accident history closely due to medical issues since that pilot certificate does not require third class. And of course, the long term history of balloon and glider pilots. Pilots, given the opportunity, will self-ground very effectively. Sure, there is always that special case that someone can point to with a huge assumption that a third class medical would have prevented it.
Over the past 20 years AOPA has petitioned for or submitted formal comments requesting expansion of the drivers license/self certification standard more than 10 times.
So what is going on now? We are, again, investigating the viability of the third class medical weighing the pro’s and con’s presented by both impassioned sides but defaulting to the statistics to make or break the case. You will hear more about this in the coming months. Where is that fellow that said we only “react”?
I could do a book on AeroMedical and AOPA involvement. So ask more if you would like – otherwise I’ll get on to your other questions. I really will be short on these since I’ve probably already bored you.
Richard’s comment – thanks for being the first to post. We had just left a fairly robust decade + of economic growth as well as a resurgence of GA. Particularly the passing of Product Liability Reform for GA aircraft that led to the remanufacture of legacy GA aircraft as well as setting the stage for new growth – see Cirrus in the dictionary, LSA’s, VLJ’s, etc. Then came 2009 – the bubble burst on many fronts and GA was not immune. Membership numbers declined slightly, advertiser revenue tanked, aircraft manufacturer’s declined and some disappeared, donor dollars both high-end and low suffered. But federal and state machines continued to grind out new regulatory efforts. Incidentally, this coincided with Phil’s retirement and the installment of a new CEO at AOPA. Terrible timing but Fuller is up for the challenge and is the reason I didn’t retire as planned. The membership dues alone do not come anywhere close to generating the revenue necessary to provide the expected educational, advocacy, safety, regulatory, and legislative issues that we still need to accomplish.
This challenged our marketing group, and all at AOPA, to be increasingly creative with products for members. Fuller’s primary directive on the marketing front was to discover products that our various segments of pilot members would normally buy, and produce partner relationships that bring value to the member for products or services that they might otherwise buy elsewhere.
I have to admit that we blew it on some of these. Our marketing segmentation was not fully successful. A perfect example was the wine club. A segment of our members truly enjoyed this product and it was a great offering. In fact we got complaints from them when we ended it. Our mistake – we marketed it to the full membership. For pilots like me, a wine club membership just wasn’t on my list of doable expenses. The vast majority of products and services have been highly successful, the cost to members is equal to or less than they could buy on their own and the revenue serves the mission you expect from AOPA.
And, keep in mind that we have always offered value-added items that you could elect to take or leave depending on your needs and lifestyle. Credit card, rental car, life insurance, etc., etc,. You aren’t being forced into anything. If you like it – take it, if you don’t – leave it.
I do have to admit that when I first read your comment I couldn’t help but latch on to your last comment “You can sell Vacuum cleaners door to door for all I care” So – I’ve got it! Pilots need vacuums and I’ll find a manufacturer that will provide a quality product that I can market to members in need at a better price and use the revenue to add a medical staff member. I’ll call it the “FULLER BRUSH VACUUM”. I have no doubt that that comment will grow legs internally. But I warned that politically correct is not what this blog is about. Bottom line – if it serves our mutual needs, so be it. The revenues are applied to the short and long term issues that face GA.