A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, has the potential to significantly lower one of the barriers for prospective pilots. The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (H.R. 3708), introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and co-sponsored by four additional members of the House General Aviation Caucus, would direct the FAA to revise or issue new regulations that would allow pilots to fly aircraft up to six-place aircraft weighing less than 6,000 lbs. using the same driver’s license standard for medical certification that currently applies only to Sport Pilot certificate holders. (The four additional co-sponsors are Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas).)
“This bill addresses the advanced state of the general aviation operating environment, reduces cost for GA pilots, and recognizes the historical data which indicates medical incapacitation has not been a significant safety issue,” said Matt Zuccaro, president of the Helicopter Association International. “This legislation will promote more individuals pursuing helicopter pilot certification, which is good for our industry and our nation’s economy. We strongly support this legislation.”
The bill would give the FAA no more than 180 days from its enactment to change medical certification requirements so that a pilot flying an aircraft authorized to carry no more than six occupants and with a maximum certified takeoff weight of no more than 6,000 lbs. would only need a valid State driver’s license as evidence of adequate health. The bill makes no distinction between fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
The pilot would be required to comply with any medical requirements associated with that license.
A pilot choosing to use the driver’s license medical certification standard would only be permitted to fly under visual flight rules (VFR), could not carry more than five passengers or fly for compensation, and would be required to remain at or below 14,000’ above sea level and below 250 knots airspeed. The pilot would also not be allowed to fly outside the United States (unless authorized by the country in which the flight would take place).
“Historically the FAA has taken an overly cautious approach to changing medical certification standards, and caution where safety’s concerned is a good thing,” concluded Zuccaro. “However we believe the time has come for the FAA to acknowledge that there is no significant data indicating that the driver’s license option will compromise safety in the general aviation community.
“Accordingly we appreciate Congressional General Aviation Caucus members sponsoring this legislative initiative directing the FAA to take action on this matter.”