Medical certification likely a hot topic at EAA AirVenture 2006
Government comes to AirVenture

One of the general aviation community’s most talked-about issues—pilot medical certification—will again be a prime topic during forum sessions at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The pilot community will have several opportunities to learn more about EAA’s efforts to streamline medical certification and FAA progress on those issues.

Dr. Warren Silberman, head of FAA’s Aeromedical Office in Oklahoma City, will present a forum on the subject at 8:30 a.m. Friday, July 28, at Forum Pavilion #8 (Jet Aviation Pavilion). In addition, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will surely address the topic during her annual "Meet The Administrator" session at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 26, at Forum Pavilion #7 (Honda Pavilion).

Medical certification for pilots has been a priority topic for EAA for more than 20 years, ever since it was the first general aviation organization to propose self-certification for some categories of pilot certificates in 1985, including recreational pilot. Then and now, EAA strongly believes that self-certification would meet the demands of the recreational flying community, while overwhelming evidence shows the move would have no affect on aviation safety. EAA’s decade-long effort to make sport pilot a reality was focused on pilots being able to certify their fitness for flight, just as glider and balloon pilots have always done, and as millions of car and truck drivers do.

"The history of this subject shows that EAA has consistently been the innovator and leader on the medical certification issues, from self-certification to clearing the special issuance backlog," said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. "In addition, EAA AirVenture provides a forum for a public review of how the system is working."

A 1993 petition to FAA for medical self-certification was the genesis of the medical rules eventually included as a major part of today’s sport pilot rule. At that time, EAA noted that self-certification had been a part of the ultralight regulations since 1982, and there had not been a single medical incapacitation accident that caused injury to persons or property in the decade that followed.

Although petitions by EAA and other groups requesting recreational pilot self-certification have been denied, EAA’s efforts that made it possible in the sport pilot rule now give the aviation community an opportunity to accurately measure what, if any, affect medical self-certification has on accident rates. EAA maintains the evidence will show no difference between accident rates of pilots self-certified and those who regularly renew their third-class medical certificates.

Although self-certification is now part of the sport pilot regulations, EAA’s work is not finished. A particular Catch-22 in the rule prevents those who have been denied a medical certification from operating as sport pilots unless they first receive a special issuance from FAA. This prevents many now-medically fit pilots from flying as sport pilots unless they go through a laborious process to receive a special issuance. This system not only keeps fit pilots grounded, but also adds to the backlog of special issuance cases before FAA’s Aeromedical Branch.

EAA has also advanced practical solutions to the backlog, created by the EAA Aeromedical Council, a group of aviation medical examiners who volunteer their time to assist on medical issues. These proposals have generated action from FAA that is beginning to reduce the backlog and allow more flexibility in the process.

In addition, two physicians who have served on EAA’s Aeromedical Council—Dr. Richard Jennings, president of the Aerospace Medical Association, and Dr. Jack Hastings, AsMA president-elect—have joined EAA President Tom Poberezny for meetings with the Federal Air Surgeon and his FAA supervisors. EAA will continue to work closely with FAA on medical certification issues, and monitor the agency’s progress toward timely and reasonable medical certification for aviators.