In early January, 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule (PDF) that will, after May 1, 2017, allow general aviation pilots to fly without holding an FAA medical certificate as long as they meet certain requirements outlined in Congressional legislation.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “The BasicMed rule will keep our pilots safe, but [it] will simplify our regulations and keep general aviation flying affordable.”
BasicMed, written into a new Part 68 of the FARs, takes effect on May 1, 2017. This will allow time for a comment period on the information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. After that point, pilots will be able to fly certain aircraft without holding a medical certificate, providing they comply with a number of FAA provisions .
The answer is “Yes”, if you fly an aircraft that is authorized under federal law to carry not more than 6 occupants and has a maximum certificated takeoff weight of not more than 6,000 pounds
Now, here’s a list of qualifications that YOU must meet in order to operate under BasicMed:
- You must possess a valid US driver’s license. Individuals who do not have a medical certificate and whose driver’s license has been revoked or rescinded for any reason, are not eligible to use this rule, unless the driver’s license is reinstated. Any restrictions on a driver’s license, (e.g., corrective lenses, prosthetic aids required, daylight driving only) also apply under this rule.
- You must have held a medical certificate at any time after July 15, 2006. (This 10-year “Lookback” period applies to both regular and special issuance medicals. Pilots who have never held an FAA medical certificate, including student pilots, will need to go through the Medical Certificate process one time only.).
- You must not have had the most recently held medical certificate revoked, suspended, or withdrawn. (Pilots whose most recent medical certificate was revoked, suspended, withdrawn, or denied will need to obtain a new medical certificate before they can operate under the reforms).
- Your most recent application for airman medical certification must not have been completed and then denied
- You must have taken a medical education course within the past 24 calendar months
- You must have completed a comprehensive medical examination with a licensed physician within the past 48 months. Note that Physician’s Assistants are not state licensed physicians. Aviation medical examiners are required to be state-licensed physicians, so pilots could continue to visit their AME for the physical exam required by BasicMed.
- You must be under the care of a physician for certain medical conditions
- Must have been found eligible for special issuance of a medical certificate for certain specified mental health, neurological, or cardiovascular conditions, when applicable. Details can be found at BasicMed, pages 73-76.
- You must consent to a National Driver Register check.
- You can carry no more than five passengers
- You can operate under VFR or IFR, within the United States. BasicMed Pilots cannot fly internationally, unless they receive authorization from the country in which they will be flying. You could call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA) or the country’s aviation authority to see what is needed to fly in that country.
- You must operate at less than 18,000 feet MSL and must not exceed 250 knots.
- You cannot fly for compensation or hire
The “lookback” applies to the expiration date of the medical certificate, which is determined using the “Date of Examination” on the certificate and the applicable duration periods. For instance, those who had a regular medical certificate, the expiration date depends on their age at the time of the examination—age 40 or over (2 years) , or under 40 (3 years).
Persons age 40 or over on the date of their examination would meet the 10-year period described in FESSA if their examination was on or after July 15, 2004. This date is based on the two-year validity period for third class medical certificates issued to persons age 40 or over. Persons under age 40 on the date of their examination would meet the 10-year period described in FESSA if their examination was on or after July 15, 2003. This date is based on the three-year validity period for third class medical certificates issued to persons under 40 years of age that was in effect prior to 2008.
- Visit any state-licensed physician at least once every four years and
- Take the free aeromedical factors online course every two years. (expires 2 years later on the last day of the month in which you took the exam)
- The course will be available for free on AOPA’s website.
- A certificate of completion of the course and the checklist from the physician must be kept in the pilot’s logbook;
- Alternatively, pilots may carry a legible representation, such as a smartphone image, of the document to be able to show to an FAA inspector if asked.
Participating pilots will present to their physician a completed aeromedical self-assessment checklist developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The physician will then complete a physical examination and affirm the absence of any medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft. Physicians will be instructed to exercise their discretion to address any medical conditions identified and to determine if any tests are needed.The information from the checklist that you’ll complete along with your physician, will not be sent to the FAA. Some of the base details concerning the comprehensive medical examination can be found at BasicMed, pages 70 – 73.
AOPA has an online site called Fit to Fly resources for physicians. AOPA will continue to develop more information as the implementation date approaches.
Special Issuance – Yes, it’s still Possible
The big winners under Third Class medical reform are pilots flying under a Special Issuance certificate. If you have had a special issuance medical within the 10-year Lookback period and your medical status is unchanged, you should be able to fly under BasicMed provided you meet all the other qualifications, including being under the treatment of a physician for your medical condition. There is no requirement to go through the lengthy and expensive process of renewing that Special Issuance medical every two years.
For the purposes of BasicMed, the FAA has identified certain medical conditions that will require a pilot to obtain a one-time special issuance medical:
Cardiovascular: myocardial infarction (heart attack); coronary heart disease that has required treatment; cardiac valve replacement; and heart replacement. Pilots with a cardiovascular condition will still need to get a one-time special issuance, but successful completion of a clinical evaluation will satisfy the process for getting an Authorization for Special Issuance of a medical certificate with no mandatory waiting period.
Neurological: epilepsy; a transient loss of control of nervous system functions without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause; and disturbances of consciousness without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause.
Mental Health: personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts; psychosis defined as a case in which an individual has manifested or may reasonably be expected to manifest delusions, hallucinations, grossly bizarre or disorganized behavior, or other commonly accepted symptoms of psychosis; bipolar disorder; and substance dependence within the previous two years as defined in FAR 67.307(a)(4).
Pilots who have a clinically diagnosed mental health or neurological condition will be required to certify every two years that they are under the care of a state-licensed medical specialist for that condition. Details of how that certification process will work have not yet been determined.
The regulations do not permit individuals with select mental health, neurological and cardiovascular conditions to participate in BasicMed without first obtaining a special issuance medical certificate from the FAA. For medical conditions, as determined by a physician, that may interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft, physicians shall exercise medical discretion and develop a treatment plan to enable the individual to qualify for BasicMed at a future date.
If you develop a new condition that requires a special issuance medical certificate, you will have to apply for a one-time special issuance for that condition.
What if my current medical certificate expires before May 1st?
Timing is everything. If you wish fly as pilot in command through May 1st, you’ll need to get another physical from your aeromedical examiner. If you do not wish to fly as pilot in command during the period between your medical expiration and the implementation of BasicMed, you can wait until May 1st and then accomplish the aeromedical factors online course and visit any state-licensed physician, who will complete the examination checklist.
Pilots also have the option to let their medical certificate expire and not fly as pilot in command between the expiration of their medical certificate and the start of BasicMed on May 1. Pilots who opt to do this might consider flying with an instructor to keep their flying skills sharp during this period.
What if my current medical certificate expires after May 1st?
You can continue to operate under your medical certificate until it expires. Then, you’ll need to either:
- Contact your aeromedical examiner and get a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Class FAA physical – or
- Comply with BasicMed (Complete the Online Course and Medical Exam)
Can I flight instruct under BasicMed?
Yes. The FAA has stated that “flight instructors meeting the requirements of this rule may act as PIC while giving flight training without holding a medical certificate, regardless of whether the person receiving flight training holds a medical certificate.” The FAA considers the flight instructor who is acting as PIC to be “receiving compensation for his or her flight instruction” under instructor privileges but is “exercising private pilot privileges while acting as PIC of the flight.”
Please understand that any medical condition that would have disqualified you from flying before May 1st, 2017, is still disqualifying under BasicMed.
You’re Still Accountable
A pilot who holds a medical certificate may choose to operate under BasicMed and not exercise the privileges of his or her medical certificate. Even though a pilot chooses not to exercise the privileges of the medical certificate for a particular operation, the FAA retains the authority to pursue enforcement action to suspend or revoke that medical certificate where there is evidence that the pilot does not meet the FAA’s medical certification standards.
AOPA has developed a suite of online resources for pilots and physicians called “Fit to Fly Resources”. Hopefully, this information will help you make the most of the reforms so you can enjoy your freedom to fly.
AOPA is always adding more answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) at https://www.aopa.org/advocacy/pilots/medical/third-class-airman-medical-reform
Check the FAQs often!