Third-Class Medical and AOPA’s Products

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.

AOPA Products
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.

111 thoughts on “Third-Class Medical and AOPA’s Products

  1. Jeff

    I think we should just get rid of medicals altogether. If the data supports no increase in accident rates for third class medicals, I cant imagine that data changing with the higher level certificates. When you think about it..A pilot at the controls of the airliner, has the same chance of a pilot at the controls of a small plane of becoming incapacitated, plus there is a co pilot in the cockpit as well! If we champion getting rid of one class, we should champion all three!

  2. Bob

    I have a question, albeit a very minor one. Why is it on the stories that are published on the website, most of the pictures end up being tiny. It would be very nice, especially on some of the “cooler” pictures if I could click on them and have them expand.

  3. John Neils

    I’ve gotten two different opinions regarding my legality of flying my motor glider (AOPA & EAA) One says if I flunk the medical I can’t fly the glider and the other says I can. As a volunteer medical first responder for 22 years I’ve heard the first syptom of heart disease in 50% of patients is death. Medical technology is pretty clueless when it comes to forecasting the future. I’d vote for dumping the 3rd class medical.

    Also, I’m an able disabled nam veteran, tinnitus and hearing loss. The easiest place for me to carry on a conversation with my wife is in my Cessna 172XP because I can turn up the intercom. Wifes speach frequency is in my hearing loss range, medical examiners range is lower so OK. Is the FAA checking VA records to catch unreported disabilities? If I report it what hoops do I have to jump through for hearing loss on the medical.

    I’ve had a very strange conversations with the FAA in conjunction with your legal expert. That’s one goofy outfit! The FAA medical guy claimed I didn’t submit the requested medical information in time because it takes them 90 days to open their mail. Said I should have filed for an extension 83 days before they requested my information (same outfit opens their mail 83 days too late for the 7 day extension request). Nutty!

    John Neils


  4. JC

    Given AOPA’s charter to represent/ help GA, what specific actions is AOPA taking to help push for the revocation of the third class medical?

    Many Thanks;

  5. Gary Motley, RN

    Having worked as an ER, Flight Nurse, and home health for more than 30 years I agree that a medical certificate does almost nothing to forecast a sudden incapacitation of a pilot. They should be abolished specifically for third class ratings and seriously reviewed for commercial operations. I too had problems with the FAA due to a statistically insignificant fluctuation in liver enzymes just two points over a lab reference range with no history of disease or treatment. My IM MD provided several letters and numerous tests demonstrating no disease and I provided written medical source evidence supporting my position yet was denied and then later given a special issuance. It’s was absurd.

  6. Kevin

    Removing the 3rd class medical requirement for PPL’s is essential to the future of GA. It is so important IMHO that every staff meeting in AOPA and EAA and of course any meeting with FAA representatives should begin with a status review on the progress.
    Also it deserves constant feedback to the membership regarding your specific actions and should be a routine key reporting point in all your newsletters and publications.
    Lastly with the impedance in Congress to reduce FAA funding for the FAA Reauthorization bill, the FAA Aero Medical department should be an obvious target.

  7. Vern Hendershott

    In this time of Federal financial issues the FAA could stop wasting the money they spend running the record keeping and special issuance department for Third Class Medicals and use that funding for some other safety related function like NextGen.

  8. Ray Arceneaux

    It is time to do away with the 3d class medical. It has been proven to do nothing to improve safety. It also cost the FAA money that could be spent on real safety related projects. Also in this time of decreasing pilot numbers, we need to do everything we can to keep pilots in aviation.

  9. Larry Stetz

    I agree the time has come to do away with the third class medical. The AOPA has to make this a priority if they do not want to see a continuous downward spiral of both the number of pilots and GA in general. The survival of the AOPA itself hinges on this point. I think the leadership, needs to get their priorities straight.

  10. Richard Verdier

    How about selling the abolition of the third class medical on the basis of “cost savings” by eliminating “government waste.” These are hot topics right now. The FAA is clearly not going to eliminate the large bureaucracy they have for processing third class medicals, so perhaps the better route is to sell it to the politicians and have these ineffective medicals eliminated by law. The facts are on the side of getting rid of this wasteful requirement. Heaven knows they slip all other kinds of things onto “must pass” bills.

  11. Joseph H. Rodenberg

    If third class medicals will no longer be required, what will happen to those flying under “special issuance medical” certificates?

    Under the present circumstances, if, while flying under a “special issue medical” and decide not to have a further medical exam, will that prevent flying as an LSA drivers license pilot?

  12. Michael O'Neil

    I’m wondering if some data may be available from the airlines as to how many First Class pilots are weeded out of service over the years from 40-65 because of a change in health. Progress on forced retirement came after review and we’ve now seen that raising the retirement age did not create issues.

    The first step might be removing the age discrimination issue on the Third Class physical and have exams every 5 years regardless of age for PPL. This ultimately may trickle “up” if you will to First Class and professional pilots to have physicals once a year. Many over the road Commercial Drivers Licenses have to have a DOT physical once a year. So the annual issue may be reasonable for the pro’s.

    PPL’s may have to not only to deal with the FAA/govt bureaucracy on this type of change but with the many FAA designated examiner MD’s/DO’s who will also see a loss of income. Whenever one touches the pocket book of another, there will always be objections.

  13. William Rogers

    From all the information I have read I believe The Secretary of Transportation and The Administrator of the FAA are out of touch with the very stats they claim to use to support their 3rd class medical rules. As a tax payer I am convinced the statistics show 3rd class medicals are not a necessary and I’m in favor of eliminating them completely. If the FAA is incapable of coming to this decision on their own then Congress needs to step in and do it for them. This current Congress is looking for ways to save millions of wasted dollars in the FAA budget – this is a big one! I have written to my Congressman already – have You?

  14. Ron

    Get rid of the third class medical! Save Aviation! Allow us to fly our legacy GA aircraft!

    LSA is a red herring!

    Let us use autogas, which we do anyway!

    Mr. Cahall, thank you for your tour in Vietnam, Happy Memorial Day!

  15. Roy

    Observation of the way laws and regulations have been made in this country provide solid evidence that the side with the most money to shower on the legislators (euphemistically called “the most powerful lobby”), wins. Not logic, reason, or the benefit of the public.

    The greatest incentive many of us have to sell our inexpensive, old airplane and put up a lot of bucks for a new light sport aircraft is the threat or reality of losing our medical. So elimination of the medical would represent a lot of lost sales to the light sport aircraft industry. Can and will AOPA outspend them on political contributions? Unless the answer is yes, I’m afraid all the statistics and logical reasoning are a waste of time and money.

  16. r s

    I live 150 miles away from the nearest facility to obtain a flight physical, not only am i burdoned with the cost of the physical but also the time on the road and fuel. If the doctor I go to retires the next nearest facility is 300 miles away. I feel that if it doesnt improve safety get rid of it, releiving us of the burdon of cost as well as reducing FAA costs.

  17. jim hanson

    John Neils–it depends on your pilot license.

    Motorgliders are considered GLIDERS–self-launching, but GLIDERS. You must be GLIDER rated to carry a passenger, but you need not have a medical. Oddly enough, if you are NOT glider rated but ARE rated in airplanes, you aren’t legal.

    If the motorglider meets the definition of Light Sport, you can fly it as an experimental LSA–subject to the medical requirements all Private Pilots have in flying LSAs–no failed physical. You would also have all of the PRIVILEGES of a Private pilot flying an LSA.

    Motorgliders are a good way to fly–no medical needed (see above) and loads of fun to fly. What constitutes an experimental motorglider? I don’t think the FAA has attempted to define that yet. Some aircraft (like the Europa) even have glider wings you can use in place of the airplane wings.

  18. shannon evans

    The 3rd class medical is a joke. If there is no data to support it then get rid of it. I would tend to think the average GA pilot may be safer because he/she could see their primary doctor & get a potential problem fixed without worry about loseing their flying privileges. If I am not feeling 100percent I dont fly period. We are at more risk of a person driving down the interstate & being incapacitated than with a private pilot. & , Dont get started on the buracracy of the FAA doctors in OKC that have never seen you, but know more that your doctor or other specialist that have treated the pilot in question.

  19. Terry

    I agree 100% that we should get rid of the 3rd class medical, or at least allow pilots to fly a C-152 or Citabria with a driver’s lic medical. There is a big push to get new folks into aviation, but just as important is to keep current pilots flying, and the best way to do that is get rid of the 3rd class medical. I would buy a Citabria if I were not afraid that I may not pass the medical every two years and end up with an airplane I could not fly. The medical services AOPA provides are fine, but lets get rid of the need for most of those services and eliminate the 3rd class medical. In the past this seemed to be more of a focus of AOPA, that now does not get the push it should. Lets make this a major push for both AOPA and EAA this year.

  20. Dwight Nicholas

    I think a reasonable comprise for the third class medical would be to exempt pilots from a third class medical for simple planes. Forget the LSA specific requirement. Allow pilots to self certify for third class medicals for all simple planes (no high performance (less than 180HP), no constant speed props or retractable gear aircraft. Does a Cessna 172 really pose any more danger than a 1380 pound two seat LSA (that is faster than a 172)?

    Unfortunately I believe the LSA weight and HP requirement are causing manufacturers to focus on weight more than safety!

  21. Rod Pollard

    Mr. Cahall
    I believe that the response to this latest blog post and many other posts elsewhere online really disprove the following statement.

    “As the opposing opinions on this blog show, views are split rather evenly between members.”

    There seems to be an overwhelming flood of support for elimination of the third class medical. Something to keep in mind is the thousands if not tens of thousands of non-active pilots who have walked away from aviation because of the third class medical and no longer participate in these issues. These pilots would probably add substantially to the cry for elimination of the third class medical.

    I believe AOPA and current active pilots should continue the efforts to recruit and retain new pilots but the single most important initiative to increase the pilot population is the elimination of the third class medical!

    I will be holding you and AOPA accountable for the following statement.

    “You will hear more about this in the coming months.”

    I sincerely hope you and AOPA will make an aggressive and meaningful effort to help eliminate the third class medical.

    1. Mark McDaniel

      Could not agree with Rod more! Where are the opposing views? This quote in itself is part of the political correctness that has permeated our society. There are no opposing views and AOPA should make priority number 1 to oppose the 3rd class medical for private pilots. I know changing the federal bureaucracy is much easier said than done but it should be Aopa’s standing position that medicals are GA’s largest roadblock to revitalizing the GA population. Not whether a student was patted on the head or not for soloing.

  22. jim hanson

    I think it is fair to say that the overwhelming percentage of pilots not only don’t think the medical certificate fulfills any purpose for non-commercial aviation–but actually believes it is HARMFUL.

    Government only governs with the consent of the governed. If there is ONE best example of how out of touch our FAA “regulators” have become, this is it. In this era of “doing something about government waste”–this should be the easiest way to assess whether they are really ready for reform.

    AOPA–and all of the rest of the “alphabelt” groups–here’s your issue–now that it is out in the open, your ability to get things done WILL be graded on this issue.

  23. Ed

    A perverse and potentially tragic consequence of all flight physicals is that pilots and controllers may avoid seeking documented medical awareness of any sort. The incentive is to avert possible administrative complexity and career threat by ignoring professional health awareness.
    The flight physical becomes the norm of medical care. Latent and preventable disease such as cancer and arthritis may progress undetected or untreated.
    Importantly, civilian flight (excluding acrobatic) is a low-stress sedentary occupation presenting minimal medical risk.
    Moreover, regardless of whether medical certification enhances safety, it certainly detracts from that safety to an even greater degree by providing incentive to ignore incipient symptoms and diagnosis.
    An aware, informed and honest individual is, by far, the best possible medical certification.

  24. John

    I agree the 3rd class medical should go. Pilots are already required to self-limit their flight activities in cases of illness. The data shows the 3rd class medical is not necessary. I think AOPA should be fighting for its revocation. Note, I cannot do light sport aviation because I was denied a medical- yet others taking the same medication that banned me from flight can get their ticket and fly by virtue of a questionnaire and vision test required for their driver’s license. Simply not fair. I hope eliminating the 3rd class medical would be a step toward eliminating this inequity.

  25. grumpy

    The people have spoken, AOPA! GET IT DONE!
    ps, Thank you to all you Veterans and current serving members of our military, at home and overseas, on this Memorial Day.

  26. James

    I have to join the chorus here as one who is vehemently opposed to the third class medical for non-commercial operations. I don’t know where the blog author gets the idea that members are split on the issue. I also wonder if AOPA has developed a large conflict of interests by building a sizable aeromedical assistance staff and revenue stream.

    I, for one, would feel much better about my membership if AOPA spent more time on core issues and less time creating new revenue streams. I feel I have been under-served on two key issues: Medical and the DC SFRA.

    I hope enough members add their thoughts here to create a groundswell. Don’t get scared into buying the medical protection plan; demand better advocacy (or do we need a third general aviation association).

  27. James

    The FAA medical certification process can be a minefield for the unprepared—Don’t go it alone

    The AOPA Medical Services Program can provide you with personalized, in-depth assistance from experts who understand pilots, paperwork, and the FAA. Plus, receive access to important tools that can help keep you flying. Enroll today!

    This is a conflict of interest! Scare tactics should never be used on the membership. The legal plan is another version of the same tactic: scare members into buying additional protections that they joined the association for in the first place.

  28. Herb Ludgewait

    I’ve had two special issuance students lately. FAA Region in request for info has either a 30 or 60 day suspese or they deny the physical, but it ta kes them a minimum of 70 days to respond. One guy quit. I would too. Fashism at its best

  29. Joseph F. Kuhlmann, Jr

    AOPA should put much more emphassis on their efforts to convince the FAA to eliminate the 3rd class medical and to allow many existing training aircraft to qualify under the LSA rules; for example the Cessna 150/152 and the Cessna 172. I live in a community near a major air force installation, Shaw Air Force Base, and there are many retired military pilots who live near the base who have commercial certrificates and who qualify under the LSA rules to continue flying; however, I personally have not been able to locate any FBO within a reasonable distance that has an LSA aircraft “For Rent”. Due to the high cost of newer state of the art LSA aircraft, small FBO’s are reluctant to put out the capital to buy a CTLS or a REMOS to add to their rental fleet. Lets face it, a C-172 is no more difficult to fly than a CTLS or a REMOS GX and many of the new LSA’s have a much more elaborate cockpit instrument and GPS systems. I know this to be factual as I have flown all three of these aircraft. br34


  30. Bruce Liddel

    The last nine times we all went before the FAA to force consideration of abolishing the 3rd class medical, we presented a mountain of supporting data, sound logical arguments, and impassioned NPRM comments. The FAA responded to almost all of it with “We do not agree. Safety is paramount.” They may sound like the wizard of Oz, but in reality they are demonstrating classic fascism. They could care less about safety, or the economy, or general aviation. All that matters to them is unlimited power, reduced liability, reduced accountability, and job security for federal employees. Until the next revolution, nothing will change.

    Years ago, Congress removed the words “and promote” from the mission of the FAA “to regulate and promote the safe and efficient use of the navigable airspace”. No wonder Congress’ approval rating is under 15%.

    Yes, I’m one of the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic pilots forced out of this broken system, still clinging to hope that someday things will get better.

  31. Melvin Freedman

    The 3rd class med is about money, not safety. Just ask the ama. In the 40 plus years I’ve had a lic., they have made millions on it. Sad to say but the aopa is in lock step with the FAA and AMA on this. Cahill is just pulling mnbrs chain. The pvt pilot hasn’t a chance. I’ve had 2 waivers and threw in the towel, that was 20yrs ago. If anyone would like to E me, do it.

  32. Thomas Boyle


    If the Wizards don’t care about data, logic or passion, they must be persuaded with things they do care about, like budgets and job security, and sheer nuisance value. The Wizards may be “in charge,” but like children forced to negotiate with adults (who, like the Wizards, have all the power) pilots have two advantages they can use: they can be a perpetual nuisance; and they care more.

    I don’t know how to do that because I don’t know the system. But it’s where I’d look. If you play by the rules, but the the other side won’t, then there’s no point playing nice.

    How many Congresspersons are on Special Issuances, for example? Or are getting to an age where that might be a concern?

    How can FAA be embarrassed? How much of FAA’s precious resources are wasted on 3rd Class medicals, while the NTSB criticizes FAA for not properly monitoring the medical status of professional pilots who carry passengers? How many FAA rejections can be matched to furious letters from real doctors?

    Are there asymmetric costs you can use to advantage? Can you force them to spend a lot of money responding to something they’re required to respond to – and then do it again?

    Just sayin, is all.

  33. Thomas Boyle


    Having said all that, there is clearly some enlightened faction within FAA – otherwise Sport Pilot wouldn’t have happened.

    So logic, data and passion may not be entirely wasted either.

    There may still be room to play nice.

    Just sayin’

  34. Ron Powell

    I did not follow through on my desire to fly because of the third class medical. I have PTSD, very well controlled with medication. Now I am going for my Sport license. I have proven to my instructor that I have the ability to handle flight in and around the Salt Lake International Airport, with all the traffic, communication, gusty winds and distractions that this environment contains. I would love to be able to fly something a bit larger, perhaps a Diamond DA40. I do not see how it would be more of a risk then the Sport Aircraft I can now legally fly. I would love to be able to take Grandkids up for a little sight seeing.

  35. Mike

    I hold a commercial certificate and believe that a medical should be required for commercial operations. Anything short of commercial operations should not require a medical. GA has suffered for several years now and one of the key players in this suffering is the FAA medical. I drive a car everyday and am at a higher risk of hurting myself or someone else then, than I am for those few hundred hours I would be flying while exercising the privilages of a private pilot. The size or speed of the aircraft shouldn’t matter either, if i have demonstrated the ability to handle a complex or high performance AC than I should be good to go. Eliminate Medicals for everything up to commercial operations and help save GA.

  36. Anonymous

    My opinion is that we should eliminate 3rd class medical completely, not only just for pilots flying aircrafts less than 6,000 lbs max gross weight. If there is still a 3rd class medical for 6,000+ lbs, then it is likely in my opinion that the FAA will use that to their advantage and not allow medically denied pilots to fly as Private, Recreational, or Sport Pilots just because there is a 3rd class medical still. The key is to get rid of 3rd class completely, so that the FAA won’t have a chance to impose a Catch 22 to medically denied Private Pilots, just like they did for Sport Pilots. At least that’s my opinion.

  37. Paul Tassinari

    January 19th 2011, I had mitral valve replacement (mechanical) surgery, so I am approaching my six month recovery and stabilization time period. Does anyone have any experience with the procedure to get my 3rd class medical reinstated?




  39. Rebecca Shipman

    The easiest and least expensive way to pass a third class medical is to never use medical or mental health services. Then it’s entirely up to the AME to find anything that might be a problem. Is this the way to insure the healthiest, safest pilots? It appears to me it is the best way to “cover the butt of the FAA” when it comes to pilot certification.
    Maintaining a third class medical is counter productive to encouraging pilots to be proactive in maintaining their health.

  40. Joe Lovett

    An Elephant is a mouse built to Government specifications.

    Any Government entity that gets the controle and power of the FAA will allways become a deff blind entity burried in red tape.Progress is stifled. Just look at mags as an example.

    Just my 2 cents, and In My Opinion, JOE

  41. David Brown

    One of the proudest moments in my life was when I earned my private license. One of the most disappointing was when I lost my medical the next year because I had to begin taking an unnapproved prescription. I will have to take this med the rest of my life, so I’ll never fly again unless the 3rd class medical is abolished. The 3rd class medical is ridiculous when you consider that its perfectly legal for me to drive a car and I’ve never had an accident in a car, motorcycle, or airplane.

  42. Thomas Boyle


    There are several possibilities open to you, if you want to continue flying as a sport/hobby.

    Let’s start with the medical: did you LOSE your medical, or simply stop flying and not pursue a renewal? If you simply stopped flying and did not pursue a renewal, then as long as you have a driver’s license and believe that you can put hand on heart and swear that you are fit to fly, you can fly as a Sport Pilot. (And before you fly over congested areas, or carry a passenger, ask yourself if you’re willing to bet not just your life, but someone else’s, on that belief.)

    However, if the FAA was notified about your medication and cancelled your medical, you face the problem known as Catch 22: you cannot fly as a Sport Pilot without first getting your medical back, even though you would not require the medical to fly as a Sport Pilot.

    If the FAA was involved and cancelled your medical, and you don’t think you could get it back (or aren’t willing to pay the cost of doing so, or because getting it back would require discontinuing important medication, or whatever), you can still fly gliders. You will need a glider rating, and you will have to be able to put your hand on your heart and self-certify your fitness to fly (“self-certify” legally means, “could you convince a judge that you reasonably believed you were fit to fly?” – and of course morally the burden is at least as high as that if you’re carrying a passenger). There are quite a few commercial glider operations and glider clubs around the country, where you can rent.

    Gliders include powered aircraft, by the way. There are motorgliders – which you can fly without a medical, with self-certification – that are very capable 2-seat touring aircraft: some of them cruise faster than Light Sport aircraft (although most don’t). You will also need to buy the motorglider, since they’re virtually impossible to find as rentals.

    Finally, if you really don’t feel you can self-certify, you can still legally fly ultralights. Of course, these have limited capabilities. The reason you can fly them, even with known and possibly serious medical problems, is that you won’t be carrying passengers and you can’t legally fly over congested areas in an ultralight, so in practice the only life you’d be putting at risk would be your own. Again, you’d need to buy the ultralight.

  43. David Brown

    I lost my medical. I have subsequently had a successful surgery, but I have to take unacceptable meds as a precautionary measure. I feel I’m as safe as any other healthy middle-aged male. However, the FAA won’t even consider the drugs I take. If I could get a special issuance I’d try, but I don’t see it happening.

    I’ve thought about gliders. However, the nearest club is 100 miles from my home. (If only I could fly over there…..)

    1. David Brown

      The irony of this whole situation is that I started the process of renewing my medical earlier than I would have had to because I knew there might be complications. In December of that year I received the letter from the FAA saying I had to give up my medical. The next year they started the LSA self-certification. If I’d just left it alone I could fly LSA today. I hate to sound bitter, but I really do miss flying terribly every month when my AOPA magazine comes. I’d cancel my subscription, but that would probably bother me just as much.

  44. Thomas Boyle


    Two other thoughts to explore. One is to investigate whether you can get some other country to issue you a medical (and a pilot certificate), and use that to work your way back into a US certificate issued on the basis of your foreign certificate. That might take quite a bit of research, so I’d first get an opinion on whether it will work, since you already have a US certifiacte. Perhaps AOPA could advise you. However, I do know that there are people flying in the US on US-issued certificates for which they do NOT have US medicals, because the US certificate is issued on the basis of a foreign certificate. The FAA is generally less stringent than other medical authorities, which don’t even have a Class 3 at all in many cases, but you never know…

    The other is to get to know your state Senator(s), and communicate that the FAA requires you to stop taking your medication, in order to issue you a medical certificate, and that you think they’re being ridiculous. Bring outraged letters from your doctor. It’s a long shot, though.

    In the meantime, look up: Grob 109B, Ximango, Taifun 17E, Xenos, Scheibe (various models), Vivat L-13, Fournier (various models), and if you have deeper pockets the new Phoenix motorglider and (very deep pockets) the Stemme S-10 are possible options.

  45. Thomas Boyle


    One other thought. If the aeromedical people at the FAA are of a mind to help you (I don’t know if they are), explore whether they’d do a special issuance with a limitation saying you can’t fly if you have been taking the meds lately (say, last 10 days), but can fly if you haven’t. You might have to stop taking them for a while to get it issued. Then resume taking the meds, don’t fly, and wait for the medical to expire.

    1. David Brown

      Thanks for your ideas. I can assure you that I will explore all of them. (Except for some of the gliders. I don’t have deep pockets.) If I could get your personal email I could give you a few more details which might lead to some other ideas, although contacting my congressman sounds really good. It would be great if they could do something useful. Thanks again!

      1. Thomas Boyle

        It’s a hotmail account. Just use my name with a dot in the middle.

        I’d treat the congressperson route as something of a last resort. If you can get the FAA aeromedical people to work with you, it’ll be much better. The broad approach with them would be a) get an FAA aeromedical person to talk to you informally (maybe at Oshkosh or something?) b) have them confirm that they’d be fine with you operating as a Sport Pilot with your condition and using your meds (i.e., they wouldn’t prosecute you on the grounds that you’d be unfit to self-certify) c) thus confirming that what they now need, as decent human beings who of course want to help you, is a way to cover their butts bureaucratically for issuing you a Special Issuance so you can let it quietly expire d) help them out by giving them a way to cover said butts – they issue you a Special Issuance with a restriction on it saying that you can fly as long as you don’t take your meds. Now you have helped them by giving them a way to help you. Everyone is happy.

        Of course, that may not work.

        If you do decide to go “congressional,” there is a GA Caucus in Congress, so see if one of your representatives is on it.

  46. Kent Crawford


    I agree with the comments from virtualy everyone here. The third class medical is a waste of money for the FAA and creates undue anguish among pilots of all ages. I think the LSA “expierment” results are a major testament to that. Of course, commercial pilots that carry passengers for hire should be tested but the bedrock of aviation is the single engine and small twin pilot that flys as a hobby or himself for business. This is the perfect time to press the issue with cutbacks in funding required in so many areas. Someone that has access to the right information should project the costs of administering and enforcing the 3rd class medical and propose eliminating it all together.

  47. John


    I am concerned about the creeping hyper-vigilance of the FAA over medical issues with private pilots. The FAA has a mania for pursuing to the nth degree the medical condition of a private pilot. We must list every prescription or over the counter drug, every medical condition we have ever had, however irrelevant or long ago, arrests, traffic records, and more, on the application form. Simply having to list these things (under draconian penalties if not) creates a doubt, which then has to be pursued. Then, depending on the whim of the examiner, the application can be denied, or delayed while a lengthy consideration takes place at a higher level. It’s bureaucracy at its worst, where the private pilot is completely at the mercy and good graces of an all powerful bureaucracy.

    Yet, the same person (the pilot) can drive a car or truck anywhere with no such monitoring at all. A sudden incapacity could cause a fatality there too, so why the disproportionate and ridiculously stringent pursuit of medical issues with a private pilot? Can’t the examiner judge whether the person is sound enough to fly? IMO this has accreted over time, as federal bureaucrats need to justify their existence. (the added requirement of a bi -annual flight review is another example, after many years of not requiring it, the bureaucracy needs to do something to justify it’s existence.) It is important to note that the number of fatalities due to pilot incapacity is negligible, a fraction of a percent. This fact alone should trump a lot of the FAA over- zealous action with medical certification. There are essentially infinitely many ways a pilot could injure himself. Any pilot could go to a bar and get drunk before flying for example. Or he might sniff glue. It would be an extremely irresponsible thing to do. But the point is, at bottom, some assumption of good judgment has to be made, that the pilot is not an idiot or suicidal, and will self ground himself when not healthy enough to fly.

    This medical certification issue is a big problem when one contemplates the purchase of a $100,000 airplane. What happens if his medical certificate application fails ? Well, he then owns a useless $100,000 piece of hardware. And under the present FAA medical/legal regime, he has little recourse except to hope the bureaucracy (while taking it’s sweet time) will reverse itself.

    Is there any hope of mitigating (ideally, eliminating) this incredibly intrusive aspect of private flying? The LSA category was a step in the right direction, but I would like to see private pilot privileges to have the same medical requirements as that. Understand I am talking about private pilots, who fly for recreational purposes, not commercial for hire or large aircraft commercial pilots. The LSA restrictions are really arbitrary and needlessly limiting in most cases. The class should include most light single engine aircraft. For example, there is nothing more risky about flying a Cessna 172 than any current LSA.

    I would be interested in any thoughts (or actions) the AOPA has on this.


  48. John

    Another lobbying strategy (to eliminate the 3rd class medical exam) would be to enlist the GA plane manufacturers such as Piper, Cessna and Beechcraft. It is in their interest to sell aircraft. That will be aided by not having aircraft being sold because of loss of medical certification. These manufacturers might be “bigger guns” for lobbying purposes than the AOPA and our individual voices alone.

  49. Dean Borlace

    In response to the post dated 6/1/11:
    The last nine times we all went before the FAA to force consideration of abolishing the 3rd class medical, we presented a mountain of supporting data, sound logical arguments, and impassioned NPRM comments. The FAA responded to almost all of it with “We do not agree. Safety is paramount.”

    It is apparent to me that the FAA is suffering from a very severe case of RCI (Rectal Cranial Inversion), otherwise known as having their head up their butt. Perhaps they all need to have a plexiglass stomach implanted so they can at least see the world around them until their disease is cured.

    Anyway, Mr. David Wartofsky has petitioned the FAA/DOT to eliminate the 3rd Class Medical for private use aircraft less than 6,000 pounds. It’s FAA Docket number FAA 2009-0481. You can find a link to this from the website where you can add your comments and read the comments of others. For some absurd and totally underhanded and ridiculous reason the FAA’s Brain Trust extended the comment period to the year 2099!!! IMHO, this action is un-democratic and may even be unconstitutional. Rest assured, I will be writing my Congressman about this injustice.

    All the comments previously posted, as well as those posted in response to Mr. Wartofsky’s petition, are overwhelmingly supportive of eliminating the 3rd Class Medical for private pilots. I couldn’t agree more! Is there really a greater safety risk to the pilot or the general public on the ground from a C-172 cruising at 110 knots versus the LSA cruising at 120 knots? I think not! I have piloted a C-172, Piper Warrior/Archer, Piper Arrow, as well as the Tecnam Sierra LSA, and based on my experience, with the exception of the Piper Arrow, there is very little difference in the piloting skills required to fly any of them. In fact, one could argue that the LSA might require more finesse to land in gusty crosswind conditions because of its lighter weight.

    Since the inception of the LSA rules in 2004, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that the driver’s license medical qualification and pilot self-certification has NOT caused an increase in accidents/incidents due to medical incapacitation of the pilot. I know several pilots and without exception they are among the most conscientious, respectful, professional, and safety-minded people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. None of them has a death wish where they would risk their own life, their family members, or that of innocent others by flying when medically unfit. After all, one part of human nature is that of “self-preservation.” The LSA accident/incident statistics unequivocally prove that pilot self-certification and drivers license medical qualification works.

    To address the FAA’s response that, “…safety is paramount,” I do agree with them that safety indeed is paramount. However, the 3rd Class Medical system, which costs pilots and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually, does nothing to enhance safety. The aforementioned statistics are proof of that fact! Some even argue in their posts that the 3rd Class Medical system could be detracting from safety because some pilots may avoid seeking medical attention for somewhat benign symptoms that may later progress to the sudden medical incapacitation the system seeks to prevent. If the FAA’s primary concern is “safety,” then for the sake of us all, let’s abolish the 3rd Class Medical requirement as Mr. Wartofsky has petitioned and then invest those resources to enhance the NextGen ATC system improvements, improving GPS navigation systems, in-cockpit weather systems, maintaining the health of Commercial/ATP pilots needing Class 1 or 2 Medicals, and on treating the few air-traffic controllers suffering from narcolepsy. Just imagine the level of “safety” that could be achieved!

    From an economic standpoint, it is in our collective best interest to have a vibrant and thriving GA industry in the USA. A strong GA industry will support the careers of thousands of our fellow citizens (A&P Mechanics, Avionics Technicians, FBOs, tourism industry, rental cars, restaurants ($100 burger), hotels/lodging, etc.), not to mention the many airports and communities that surround those airports. The downward spiral the GA industry is experiencing can be reversed by the return of the thousands of capable, proficient pilots who have left GA because of their disgust in having to convince a stranger (either the AME they see every 2 or 5 years or someone in Oklahoma City) what their primary care physician already told them (i.e., that they are medically fit enough to drive a car or fly a light airplane).

    I hope and pray that the FAA is cured of its RCI before it’s too late!

  50. John

    The 3rd class medical can be shown to be a highly disproportionate risk mitigation, in terms of cost/benefit ratio . Consider this: It is estimated that outright pilot physical incapacity is responsible for about 1% of general aviation deaths. But, let’s be pessimistic, and say 5% of GA deaths are from pilot physical incapacity. Since there are only about 600 total deaths in all of GA per year, that works out to 30 deaths a year due to pilot physical incapacity. To put that in perspective to other risks, consider that about 50 deaths a year are due to lightning, 400 per year from falling out of bed! (should we have federal bed inspectors?), 740 from bicycle accidents (do we need federal regulation of bicycles ?), 565 from falls on level ground or floors (federal walking instruction anyone?), etc. etc. And of course there are 40,000+ per year deaths in automobile accidents. But if we stick to the 1% figure for GA deaths, then there are 6 deaths a year due to pilot physical incapacity! Does either figure warrant a federal bureaucracy administering the 3rd class medical ? There are innumerable other causes of death with far greater fatality numbers than due to GA pilot incapacity. The number of fatalities due to pilot incapacitation are truly infinitesimal when compared to other causes of death. When these relative statistics are seen in perspective, the obvious absurdity of the hyper-zealous medical 3rd class exam can be seen. Having an entire federal bureaucracy to harass private pilots with the 3rd class physical is a huge mis-allocation of time and tax-payer money as well as an infringement on our freedoms.

  51. Paul

    Today Obama issued orders to get rid of unneeded federal regulations. I hope, Woody, after you return from the earthquake, you are on the phone to the White House about the Third Class Medical. The membership is overwhelmingly agaist the medical and if there is an example needed for something that is needlessly harming an industry The Medical is high on the list.

  52. Mister

    Enough talking about moving on this! Let’s get going with having the class 3 dumped. It is ineffective, wastes our tax dollars, and its illogical rules are without reason and infringe on our freedom. The FAA has grandfathered in a practice of using junk science to just say ‘no’ to healthy (and honest) people who are perfectly fit to fly small aircraft. Th FAA says essentially, ‘no way…tough luck’ and we are without recourse. The absurdity of the FAA must be reigned in. I am all for legal action for without cause, they make us walk in the class 3 arena…one that has the statistics and facts clearly against its true efficacy. The ‘we do this for public safety’ justification has to be shredded in the light that it is a lie, was a lie, and until the class 3 goes, it will always be a lie.

  53. Frank

    The medical requirement is nonsense; John said it so well above (8/23).

    I suspect there are two other factors at play:

    Pilots are a small fraction of the voting population. Many non-pilots see small planes as noisy and dangerous. The FAA may not want to be blamed for making us seem more dangerous.

    The other factor could be, that people in small airplanes are difficult to monitor and control. The government, being concerned about security and control, may not want to promote GA.

    In spite of these factors, I urge AOPA to continue the fight. Too many good pilots are grounded by these senseless rules.

  54. Ray Wyant

    I am now going through the ordeal of trying to get my 3rd class medical back. The frustration of the power of the FAA to take away one of my freedoms is overwelming. I feel powerless when it comes to getting rid of the 3rd class medical. It is nice to see a blog like this one that is much in support of getting rid of the 3rd class. I did not renew my AOPA membership because I think they are not doing enough to help in the matter. That meant membership dues and insurance on my airplane they lost. If they step up to the plate and get rid of the 3rd class I’ll be so glad to start my relationship again.

  55. Ray Wyant

    The AOPA does surveys on Aviation eBrief. Let’s see one on how many people would like to see the FAA drop the third class medical. I wish the AOPA would stand up for pilots as strong as the NRA does for gun owners like my wife!

  56. Howard

    There seems to be no support for the third class medical except from the FAA. The idea that there is a split among pilots/AOPA members is a fantasy. The FAA has demonstrated its unwillingness to truly consider elimination of the third class medical certificate.
    It is time (long past) that AOPA and the flying community appeal to congress. Only congress has the political and economic power to force the FAA to rationally address the issue.

  57. Greg

    I would have been a private pilot 2006 until I was stopped dead in my tracks by the “medical machine”. The question for me was why risk investing all the time & money into something only to inevitably lose it all with one visit to the AME? I wanted this to be an investment that I had control over. Though I obtained a third class medical I decided to put off my training. After the medical expired and I became a sport pilot in 2010. $5000 for a license may be loose pocket change to the FAA but to me its a major investment.

    If you want aviation to thrive, you need to treat it like a product. Find out what it will take for aviation prospects to purchase the product and make it happen.

    New aviation prospects fears: tiny airplanes, old airplanes, wide open cockpits, the cost of the license, the cost of the hobby, the loss of the medical.

  58. Greg Viola

    So, given the 100% support for abolition of the 3rd class medical (I will call it the 3CLAM from now on) that I see on this blog, why would the joint AOPA/EAA proposal only eliminate the 3CLAM for 180hp/Day/VRF/fixed gear/one passenger aircraft? The 3CLAM is not a proxy for competance. Passing the requirements to fly a 300 hp 6-seat aircraft IFR at night with multiple passengers is not dependent on medical condition. And since I self certify myself medically every day I fly except on the one day I visit the AME, of what real safety value is a 3CLAM anyway? I would rather see people pass a medical to continue to keep their driver’s license (ever drive in South Florida?).

  59. Tom OBriant

    It concerns me that so many jobs, AOPA and FAA, are dependent on 3rd class medicals. It seems that once a bureaucracy grows to the size of the FAA 3rd class medical team, there is no way they will ever do away with it until they can eliminate all those jobs through attrition, that may not happen in our lifetime. The government wont lay those people off. It is irregardless of whether the 3rd class medicals benefit public safety. I would suggest to the FAA to just charge us a fee to keep themselves employed but let us keep our flying privilege we worked so hard to acquire. Stop pretending 3rd class medicals are an effective way to protect the public. Stop taking away flying from perfectly healthy people. Stop forcing people to hide their medical conditions so they don’t lose their flying privileges. Get rid of the 3rd class medical now!

  60. Tom OBriant

    Unfortunately AOPA is focusing their efforts on offering us new medical products for $99 per year to ease us through the 3rd class medical process. What a joke. Capitalizing on desperate, honest pilots, in need of a voice. This is like buying protection from the Mafia. Now it would seem to me that the AOPA is profiting from the 3rd class medical fiasco which would make it highly unlikely they will do anything to help the GA community take on the FAA and abolish this ridiculous requirement. This will be my last year in support of AOPA. Historically, useless regulations have done one thing, force honest people to break the law.

  61. CSM

    Timing question this, as I am in need of a 3rd class medical & a blessing from the FAA………

    I have been, self grounded, for the past 4 years dealing with Colon Cancer. From speaking with Jo Ann, in your knowledgeable AOPA telephone support line, this is NOT an automatic reason to fail a 3rd class medical. Although, I need to supply my AME with all my medical history and a letter from my Dr. stating my condition. Then it has to be sent to Oklahoma for review and, hopefully, approval.

    Unfortunately my AME won’t be able to issue my medical on the spot and I have to beg the FAA to issue my medical even though I am cancer free with 18 months since my last post-op treatment. I still get my blood tests every 90 days.

    I have never had to submit to the FAA and the horror stories I have heard have me more than nervous. I’m really at the mercy of my AME’s ability to submit a complete summary to the FAA. As I understand it will take, at minimum, 90 days for the FAA to review once they have it in hand.

    I really need an AME who has a strong understanding of this submittal process as my wings are in his/her hands. Where can I find an AME who has experiece submitting to the FAA? I would think any DR who has been an AME for several years has had to do this, but I really need a AME with a strong understanding so as not to delay, or worse, fail to get the FAA’s approval.

    Any help is much appreciated!
    Orange County, Ca

  62. Frank Bacon

    I suggest you contact: Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, 9800 South Meridian Blvd Suite 125, Englewood Co 80112 phone 1-720-857 6032.
    I have used their service for about a decade for advice and interface with the FAA. I strongly recommend them.

    Until we get FAA approval to use the Drivers License Medical in lieu of the 3rd Class Medical, which I strongly support, the AOPA should at least ACCELERATE their efforts to get approval for using the Drivers License Medical for the the Recreational Pilot’s license.

    If such immediate relief is not obtained, it probably will be too late to stem the decline in active general aviation pilots AND memberships in the AOPA. It does not appear to me that the AOPA fully realizes the urgency of this matter.

  63. Frank Cordrey

    I completely agree that the 3rd class medical should be abolished not amended. Driving a car is far more dangerous than flying an aircraft. Pilots get a lot more training to fly aircraft than someone gets to drive a car and that includes how flying affects you physically. I flew in the military and we had numerous classes on these subjects every year. I can not recall ever being required to attend a class to keep my driver’s license yet we pose a greater risk to a greater number of people by driving than we do in an aircraft.

    I decided, after several years, to get back into flying. After all, once bitten you are infected for LIFE ! I was flying LSAs taking advantage of the driver’s license for my medical. I am getting older so there are things that do not work like they did when I was 20 and I really did not want to start chasing the FAA medical process again. LSAs are few and far between. I did find one to rent but there were restrictions on renting it….as in, they did not want it gone overnight nor more than 2 hours away. The only option next was used aircraft….as in C-150s or C-172s or maybe a Piper here and there. But required me to chase the medical again so I gave in and started the process.

    I have been taking meds for hypertension for over 4 years now and the meds are on the approved meds list from the FAA. The AME could not issue the 3rd Class medical so off to Oklahoma it goes for their approval. The FAA received the application July 15….it is now Oct 13 and all I get is “Your application has been submitted for review.”

    I have no issues other than the high blood pressure ( which I have had all my life….borderline problem with military flight physicals every year ) and the medications have it in the normal range. Will getting my 3rd Class medical issued by the FAA really make me a safer pilot?

    It is time the govt stop wasting time and $$$$$ administering the oversight on 3rd Class medicals for any pilot. Maybe we should call our aircraft “aircars” or “airtrucks” and then we could just go out for a drive in the air instead of down a road!

  64. john DeCrescenzo

    Its about time… there are many flyimg without medicals. and are in better health than some with medicals. It would be a great stimulus for the economy for aviation to be bustling again like in the 70′s many dont fly because of the obstacles in theyr way in renewing your medical with a minor health problem FAA wake up

  65. Ivinest

    Had a heart attack and bypass surgery in 1996. It took a year, thousands of dollars and hundreds of documents to obtain a special issuance 3rd class medical. Every year thereafter the FAA required me to have an EKG, thallium stress test and ultrasound imaging – all at my expense to reissue the special issuance medical. Even with insurance it cost me a couple thousand dollars a year, and that does not even account for the inconvenience.

    Year before last my cardiologist sent the FAA a copy of my EKG instead of the original. It grounded me for four months. The next year the samdoctoror mentioned in his submission to FAA that I had some arthritis. That cost me another four months until they approved a range of motion test.

    I am sixty-five years old and who my age doesn’t have a little arthritis. In truth I only have minor arthritis in my hands withdisabilitylity at all.

    I can do jumping jacks and run the 1/4 mile faster than my son who is forty-five years old. I have to laugh at the old guys who have to crawl across their wing to get into their airplanes. I can leap and jump into my Cessna 172 with no effort yet I am required all these taggravationvation, and cost to keep flying while they only see their AME every two years, which by the way I still had to do in addition to all I mentioned above.

    Recently, I sold my Cessna and bought what is supposed to be an upper category Light Sport airplane and let my medical expire for fear of eventually being denied any medical.

    Let me tell you, a light sport is not even close to the same.
    The comparison is that of a boat on a windy day going across a choppy lake. The lighter the boat the worse the ride. A 1320 pound airplane will beat you to pieces on a turbulent day. Even on a good day you will feel every little ripple in the air.

    If the 3rd class medical is eliminated, I will without question go back to an airplane like a Cessna in a heart beat. The best LSA does not even come close to a 172, trust me.

  66. CSM

    I thank everyone for their advice.

    Currently, I have to get a CT Scan which my medical insurance wont pay so I have to pay for it. Plus my Oncologist wants the scan done once without contrast….then once with contrast… I get to pay for TWO scans!

    Once I have that my oncologist said he will write a letter. Anyone have advice on what should and should not be included in this letter? Because all my test are clean and it’s been 19 months since last treatment, I believe my doctors letter is going to be the key selling point and I want to get this on the 1st attempt.

    Thanks again!

  67. David Wartofsky

    You all have it right. FAA has been chasing a meaningless chimera for years at the expense of taxpayers and freedom. Finding no significant concern, they dig deeper and harder trying to find one.

    Perhaps there is simply no legitimate medical risk to be found.

    It is time to admit the king has no clothes, and push the Government into more realistic uses for taxpayer funds.

    Keep writing your Congressmen and Women. As them to send you copies of their letters to the FAA and the DOT, to assure they actually follow through.

    Submit comments to the docket (links and instructions avail from I did it that way not to promote my airport, but because at least initially, the public links to the docket kept…moving around. Funny how these things happen.

    Because Potomac Airfield is right next to Washington DC, and I’ve got over 1,000 supporting comments into my petition so far, I have met and continue to meet with Congressional staff and committees. This matter has to be moved forward politically, since the logical arguments have proven insufficient in the past.

    Make sure you push AOPA and EAA to go all the way, not to compromise their position by assuming that the restrictions of a recreational pilot is an acceptable starting point. That concedes an absurd position as the basis for further discussion. It is not. It is absurd.

    A blog is an interesting source of discussion, but formal regulatory action and Congressional pressure are what will make it happen.

    Everyone ‘blogging’ should be submitting to the docket.
    Blogs are off the regulatory radar scope.
    Interesting, but background noise.

    If you would like to contact me,
    Telephone 301 248 5720

    Submit your comments to the docket,
    Write your local Congressional rep,
    Make your voices heard.


  68. James Janota

    To Whom it may Concern;

    Fellow AOPA members. I agree with you that there are no definitive answer on why the 3rd class medical exists. There have not been in anyway been any reason to have it. It’s a piece of paper that has very little medical deterrence for sudden onsets of things like heart attacks, strokes, or any other thing that can go wrong. The other issue is the flight schools have been through indoctrination, in to the heightened false sense of security that if you have a medical nothing will happen. It’s like saying if you breath pure filtered air you won’t sneeze. If you get a shot you won’t get the disease, and so on. I do however IMHO think that you should be able to demonstrate that an awareness test should be made which could be done by your CFI cause if he feels comfortable in flying with you then it all should be good.

  69. David Dickins

    I applaud APOA’s efforts in petitioning for a waiver that would dramatically expand the choice of airplanes available to pilots able to fly without a 3rd class medical but this entire endeavor seems anchored by an entirely illogical premise. Why will it be OK from a risk management perspective (read safety!) to fly a 172 with 2 seats full on a drivers license while requiring the 3rd Class medical to have passengers occupy the other two seats – this is insane! My story clearly illustrates the faulty logic involved in perpetuating this charade. In 2009, I had the bright idea of simply converting an old Canadian private license acquired in 1966 into a brand new US Private Certificate – all strictly legal by the way (crazy in itself). Following the FAA rules, I went to my local examiner and was passed for a 3rd Class Medical. This went to Canada for their approval and they came back with – hey wait a minute, we require an EKG for every pilot over 40. Back I go to the examiner and have his technician do the required test. Result – severe case of atrial fibrillation that any intern fresh out of medical school should have picked up in an instant. In the meantime, I had a perfectly good 3rd class medical for one year courtesy of a sloppy examiner who should have known better. After consulting with my cardiologist who assures me that I am fully able to perform the functions of a private pilot (he has a 757 Captain as a patient with the same condition) I went on to get my Light Sport Certificate and happily fly once a week with my drivers license for comfort. The point of this story is that the requirement for the 3rd Class medical is not justified in any way. My concern with the current application for waiver is that it introduces another layer of complexity on an already screwball certification scheme. My level of training to achieve a Light Sport Certificate was almost identical to a Private with exception of learning to use VOR navigation and a slightly shorter cross country – everything else was the same including the thoroughness of the oral and flight test. The new exemption, if it passes will destroy the relevance of the Light Sport license. Why wouldn’t every Light Sport Pilot immediately go out and upgrade to Recreational, opening themselves up to thousands of used 150′s and 172′s at 1/5 the price of many LSA aircraft (admittedly not as much fun to fly but hey dollars count these days!). There is something fundamentally flawed with this entire process. I’m sure that Cessna, Flight Design, Cubcrafters and the others will have something to say during the public review period- this will kill the LSA market and as a part owner in a delightful Evektor Sporstar this not something to look forward to. There has to be a better way to promote economical flying for more people than the current crazy system. David Dickins

  70. Gary Correiar

    Well, after reading all of the replies, I must say that everyone has a good case for their oppinions and I see that most of them are for getting rid of the 3rd class medical. Now I have only had my pilots lic. for 2 years , but I have been in the fire service for 32 yrs. In that time I have seen my share of people that should not have been behind a wheel that day ,or ever. There are several medical conditions that can come on in short time, that can incapacitate a person to the point that they could not operate a vehicle let alone an aircraft.

    Yes, I know most of you out there are saying that these people would make sure that they do not fly unless they were in tip top condition. I have been to way to many tragic accidents were very intelligent well meaning people have not taken their medication, or thought just a short drive would be ok.

    So, like I said I have had my pilots lic for 2 yrs, I am 53 y/o now, so how long do I have to fly,who knows. One thing I do know is that I will stop before I become a danger to my family and others; will everyone else do the same?

  71. Tom Soloman

    I also feel The 3rd class medical is a joke. If I can drive my RAM 2500 with a 30 foot trailer on it I can fly a Cessna 150. The regulation for the 3rd class medical are ridiculous specially in the diabetic area. They say you can have a low blood sugar and pass out. I have never had a low blood sugar. And if you do just care some candy with you. And the hoops you have to jump through just to get a 3rd class medical with any kind of condition is asinine. GET RID OF IT. Like the above comment money talks and the sports plane builder want to keep the 3rd class medical so they can sale there expensive planes.

  72. JoesPiper

    Try this. Just for kicks and giggles, go for a DOT physical (CDL-A) and compare to the 3rd class medical. You will truly be amazed! The exam is fairly similar, but the DOT physical has a few more restrictions and a little more involved. The DOT exam really focuses on blood pressure and body weight and the big one – diabetes. 3rd class medical – See Dick, Jane run from Spot, bang the knee, bend and cough, OK – GO FLY!

    Serious as a DOT heart attack :-)

  73. JGreely

    I’m not a pilot, but I thought I’d like to be. I’m in my 30′s now and have some money to have fun with. I’ve always loved aviation and did a lot of flying with my dad when I was a kid. I started reading up on what I’d have to do to get into it, and my interest is quickly waning. This medical stuff is just too invasive for me. My health is fine, I don’t want to potentially go on an expensive paper chase from my childhood for obvious non-issues. Looked into LSAs but they seem to be such a compromise, not practical to go visit family on the coast and they seem to give up robustness to meet the weight requirement. Maybe someday there’ll be a better option. In the meantime I’ll keep hoping for more personal privacy, discretion, and liberty.

  74. Asteroid

    Well, someone please explain : So all about this Medical Exemption is refering to current Private Pilot License, yes !? It is important because I am looking at Sport Pilot License and I am a little confused, with that I can fly ONLY LSA Aircrafts. But, can I get Private Pilot License with new new medical rule ? (Driver License and Self Certification) or I have to get it first with 3rth medical and then the new rules apply !?

  75. Gerald reiniche

    I would love to see the third class medical removed. So that Pitots with a valid drivers licence & a self certified medical would have the same privliges on flying heaver aircrafr. The smaller lighter lgs weight of 1320 lbs is just not a safe a s a cerfified cherokey or 172 up to 180 hp.

  76. Randy

    if the FAA would eliminate the 3rd class med.,that would open the door to many new pilots that would buy used aircraft such as 150,172 etc. Thereby allowing those esisting owners to purchase newer aircraft and promote GA and the economy at the same time…. I want to start my Sport pilot training soon , unfortunetly there are no LSA training near me ( even though I live 3 miles from a class c airport).But there are several that do private pilot training.Even thought there aren’t that much difference in the training.. Best course for the industry as a whole leave the medical …1st and 2nd class to the pros and drop the 3rd for the recreational pilots

  77. Randy

    I can ride a 900 lb motorcyle with a passenger and gear totaling around the limit of a sport aircraft with just a driver’s license and a M/C endorsement going down the road doing 70 mph on 2 wheels , but have to get a class 3 medical in order to get a private pilot license and fly a plane lighter than my S-10 pick-up..I would love to go after my private pilot’s cert. and buy my own plane, but the fear of losing my license over a minor medical problem keeps me from it………it’s all about the money …the AME’s make alot of money off of recreation pilots

  78. Recreational Ed

    I think removing the medical requirements on Recreational Flying will spur the aviation community economy by increasing the desire and value of the purchase of used certified aircraft. Why would anyone want to invest over $100K with the real risk of having it become useless to them if their health becomes questionable if only temporary. The real positive impact of Sport Pilots has only been on the Czech aviation industries. And of course our sport pilot schools, which only proves the case for a thriving general aviation community economy. But I dont understand why AOPA has been so slow to support this effort. Let s get on with it!

  79. Kurt

    Flying has meant a lot to me and I like to tell others about it. But when they get that wistful look and say they are thinking about it and wonder if it is something they should do, I have to advise against it unless they are very young. The list of supposedly disqualifying conditions is too long, is growing longer, and the tendency of modern medical practice to find disease in everyone over 40 too pervasive to advise anyone investing that much time and money in something that can be snatched away from them so easily and for specious reasons.

    It isn’t just the risk of denial due to truly disqualifying illness, but primarily the risk of denial due to collapse from bureaucratic hoop jump exhaustion. Multiple visits to get all the necessary statements–then upon realizing that my doctors note in one visit that I snore when sleeping on my back might induce a new round of testing for sleep apnea– the absurdity of it all becomes overwhelming. One has to ask “Do I want to submit all this, jump through all these hoops with confidence that I will get the certificate eventually if I stick with the game, but knowing that I have to do it all again in just 2 years.”

    It isn’t the risk of denial due to real incapacity but the fear and worry and frankly the indignity of it all. I am not and never have been in the military and am not conditioned to comfortably have my body invaded by Uncle Sam. And what will it be next time? Will the mild arthritis that I have to prove isn’t disabling? Investing in an airplane when one has to seek permission to use it every two years in this environment is not rational after 50.

    Another factor is the realization that having a medical certificate and really really really wanting to keep it interferes with taking care of myself. Just at that stage of life where I should be developing some good open doctor-patient relationships, I would find myself wanting to avoid medical care, because of the complications that might create beyond actual impairment. I am finding that what medical certificate requirements have done for many older pilots os make liars of adequately healthy previously honest men.

  80. Randy

    As far as I can tell ,it takes the same skill flying a plane weighing 1600 lbs as it does one at 1320 lbs. WHAT is the status of the proposal. ?????? AOPA should keep it’s membership informed .

  81. Michael Hainen

    Do away with the damn 3rd class. Kids are out of the house and college and now I can finally think about a small general aviation plane for the flying like I did before they were born. Now I am 57, retired but overweight, big guy 290. Anyway, what idiot picked the 1320 lb gross weight limit for LSA aircraft? 2 passengers, fine. Stall and max speed restrictions also dumb. Why not at least include planes up to C-152,C-150, PA-28 Tomahawk, AA1B Grumman etc. Even the PA-16 doesn’t meet the requirement because of the back seat, let me remove the seat BUT NOOOO!!!!!!!! can’t be that simple. And don’t think about flying gliders or motorgliders because they are all made in Europe/Russia for scrawny, starving little Euro pukes that weigh 150 lbs soaking wet with a parachute on. So if you want to avoid the 3rd class medical, starve yourself and be some skinny little granola freak and go bounce around on some little soda can that barely qualifies as an airplane and forget about ultralights altogether and stay in the pattern because you won’t have enough gas to get you to the scene of the crash. In short, do away with the 3rd class physical or move the LSA gross weight up to something more inclusive like 2000 lbs. If you don’t give GA a break soon, airliners of the future will be UAV’s run by beauracratic pricks at the FAA/TSA/DHS and we all know how well they function or US airlines will be hiring a bunch of Chinese/Asian/Ethiopian skinnies to fly American airliners. With UAV/UAS stuff, ain’t going to be any big pool of ex military pilots to fill the seats.

  82. Randy Bourne

    Is there a current status on the AOPA/EAA initiative to eliminate the 3rd class medical???? AOPA, are you reading these comments? In the story you said that comments were about equally split pro and con. Where was that because EVERYWHERE I look it’s more like 95 % want to get rid of the 3rd class medical. You have said that airport user fees for turbine powered craft are the biggest threat to general aviation. It won’t be if G.A. keeps declining like it has for years. I guarantee that if our organizations just put a half hearted attempt into this subject, a lot of us won’t be members anmore.

  83. Bob Fort

    I am an AOPA life member and a regular financial support of the Air Safety Foundation.
    I guess I am in the minority if the AOPA’s propaganda is an indication, but I am opposed to a “driver’s license medical” approach to medical certification. I fly regularly between my base in Norfolk and the Philadelphia area, always IFR even in clear weather,and I can just imagine the increased opportunities for incursion with “recreational pilots” up and down the Delmarva and even as far north as Dover and Wilmington.
    In my opinion, a regimented form of medical certification is necessary to ensure that pilots maintain an awareness of the serious and potentially hazardous business of flyng. I have too much invested in my ratings and my aircraft to see this category of general aviation lowered to the level of glorified hang gliding.

    1. Eric

      Your comments have nothing to do with the topic being discussed. The proposal is to eliminate the third-class medical. Your point would be valid if the proposal were to reduce the training and requirements for one to become a pilot. No one here is proposing that. Yes, eliminating the third-class medical would get more pilots into GA (which is a good thing) but those pilots will still have to go through the same level of training. As has been pointed out throughout the comments in this blog, the third-class medical exam is killing GA because it is too restrictive and counter-productive.

  84. ed harper

    Subject; Filing Comments aopa/eaa Medical Exemption under describe yourself, How much you fly annually seems to me to be a leading question as we have parked our airplanes waiting the outcome of this effort and therefore has no bearing on the effort. When you write the FAA to express your support maybe there are a few things you shouldn’t say in your own words. I am a little confused, with how to assess yourself in light of being inactive at this time. I have parked my airplane waiting for the outcome of this effort along with others.

  85. RJ

    A reasonable middle ground exists in the DOT Certificate of Fitness required for commercial truck drivers. These physicals may be performed by anyone licensed to perform medical examinations, and at least help whether holders can see, hear, and have enough presence of mind to be able to find the doctor’s office.

    I think allowing the DOT certificate for all private pilot operations would be a good compromise. It also could save millions of tax dollars every year by practically eliminating the need for OKC to review umpteen Third Class SI applications for pilots whose flying is exclusively low-risk.

    If FAA simply must place some limitations on operations using a DOT card rather than a Third Class, just so some difference exist between the two, I would suggest the following:

    1. Domestic use only (to keep ICAO happy).

    2. No new IFR, multi, or complex training. The holder could only utilize those privileges if he/she was rated or endorsed for them prior to issuance of the DOT medical card.

    3. Maximum of six seats in the aircraft / six souls on board.

    4. Some maximum aircraft weight (let’s say 8,000 lbs. MTOW).

    5. No work-related / business-related related flying (including incidental). This reduces the “get-there-itis” factor that could tempt a pilot to fly on a day when he or she is feeling less than chipper.

    6. No participation in charity airlifts, Angel Flight, etc. These activities could also influence a pilot’s decision to fly on days when perhaps he or she shouldn’t be flying.

    I frankly don’t think that any of the above restrictions would even be necessary, but let’s be real: The fact is that FAA is holding tight to the Third Class, useless as it may be, and isn’t likely to do away with it nor allow alternatives any time soon. So throw them a compromise, with some sweetener added in the form of slightly reduced privileges to address the least-imaginary of their concerns.

    Then keep chipping away from there.


  86. scott burgess

    Why does the AOPA continue to ignore it’s membership and support another level of silly {recreational} medical certification while refusing to push for elimination of 3rd class medical that the vast majority supports???????????????

  87. James

    My dad was a pilot but he failed his medical and that was it, lively hood down the drain. Luckily he retrained as a plumber but the money is nowhere near as good.

  88. John

    How about an update on the EAA/AOPA proposal to eliminate the third class physical. It seems there was a flurry of activity at the beginning of the effort but we haven’t heard any thing currently on the status of the proposal. I am shopping to buy a vintage plane that qualifies as light sport. I would upgrade that buy to a heavier, four place aircraft if the FAA came through for us. What can AOPA do to expedite this endeavor?

  89. Gary

    Does anyone know when the FAA plans on making a decision
    on the medical exemption proposal?
    This is taking far too long for all of us!

    I rent a motorglider but travel halfway across the USA to accomplish this…There are C-172′s ready and waiting to be rented at a local airport to me. …..very frustrating indeed….

  90. Donald Bridges

    By being a pilot I have had the opportunity to discuss the 3rd class
    medical with many other flyers who agree the 3rd class medical should
    be eliminated. However my Doctor who performs my medicals says this
    will never happen because the FAA will never let go of some of their
    authority to allow this.

  91. rick

    99% of the problems that arise in my studys are from poor pilot judgment and / in stressful situations not heart attacks. A person can pass a stress test with flying colors and drop dead the next day taking out the garbage. sudden illness can pop up any time. a third class medical is just a motion and does not forsee many health problems. To get rid of the third class med and train pilots to recognize illness is the best way to keep our skys safe. Pilots should keep up their training and respect mother nature. I think if the aopa would submit to the faa that all two seat aircraft up to 150 horse instead of the four seat 180s be included in the third class exemption as a trial to prove our case would speed up the process. If it is proven then include 4 seaters on a trial. We all get old and I think a good pilot knows when it is time to give our wings up.

  92. Buck

    “Proponents aren’t ready to ditch the medical just yet. They suggest that all it takes to pass a third class medical exam is a heartbeat, and anyone who can’t meet such basic standards shouldn’t fly. ” Lifted from another website.

    The “proponents” are so full of elephant dung it is not even humorous. My heart is fine; I have a non-life threatening liver issue that took an SI last time (losing 7 months of the 24 month period). I have chosen to let the medical lapse and with the non-availability of rental LSAs, I am ground-bound. Hopefully the DL will take the place of the 3rd class soon. No point in wasting over 25% of a certification period while CAMI ponders the issue.

    By the way, my BP, Pulse and respiration are all within the classically given norms, so again, the “proponents are just WRONG!

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