Every inaction has an unequal and opposite reaction…

The FAA stalled a bit to long on even answering the medical-certificate exemption petition filed two years ago by AOPA and EAA…now, Congress has noticed and moved with a new bill that would expand driver‚Äôs license medical.

What’s the arguable penalty for FAA inaction? Beyond the mere fact that Congress is now engaged? That this medical issue may be resolved without the FAA?

The penalty the FAA suffers is the prospect of a law that dramatically enlarges the realm of flying available to pilots — sans medical.

That two-year-old petition, that the FAA steadfastly refused to act on, lifted the 3rd Class medical requirement on flying with one passenger in aircraft of up to four seats and 180 horsepower — day and VFR.

House¬†Resolution 3708 expands the exemption to encompass aircraft up to six seats and capable of flying 250 knots — no horsepower limit. The VFR limitation is there, but not the night prohibition. Similarly, complex aircraft — retractable with controllable props — and high-performance aircraft would be included but a weight limit of 6,000 pounds would cap eligibility.

In practical terms, the exemption proposed by AOPA/EAA opened the door to flying Cherokee 180s, 180-horse Skyhawks and similar as long as only one other seat was filled with a person. H.R. 3708 would expand eligibility to today’s Beech G36 Bonanza and G58 Baron, Cessna’s 206, most of Piper’s piston single line and the twin Seminole; you could also fly the Senaca V under the exemption, but flying a turbocharged speedster below 14,000 — the altitude limit in H.R. 3708 — won’t fly with most operators.

About the only thing missing to cover the vast majority of G.A. aircraft and private pilot flying is eligibility to use and earn an Instrument Rating without seeing the AME.

Already several pilots have asked why not include IFR? They persuasively argue that Instrument pilots tend to be safer in many circumstances — and that even IFR pilots suffer the consequences when they fly VFR into IMC conditions without filing for whatever reasons — but often due to a lack of charts or preparation time.

Looking at safety stats as medical events relate to instrument-condition accidents, there appear no more justification for requiring a medical than the other elements of flying on a 3rd-class medical.

In the meantime, how quickly H.R. 3708 moves through the House-consideration process should be a good early indicator of whether the Senate will show comparable interest, as Senators did with the House-introduced Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013. With the House ending its year today, Friday the 13th of December, any meaningful progress won’t come until the second session of the 113th Congress — after returning in January.

In the meantime…Thanks FAA friends — thanks for your reticence. Thanks AOPA and EAA for sustaining the exemption drumbeat. And thanks lead sponsor Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and that caucus’ Co-Chair, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and all the other co-sponsors, current and future .

Maybe, just maybe general aviation will find the stars aligned to reverse a slide in the pilot population and feed new vitality into all aspects of GA. Maybe. Not looking good blue, holding my breath I’m not…But it’ll take only another act of Congress to convince me they see and understand the potential benefits. They did so a couple of times in this Congress, they can do it again.

via Now they’ve gone and done it….


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