Bill changes medical certificate rules for recreational pilots

Three U.S. senators, including Kansas Republicans Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, introduced the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act that would reform airmen medical certificate standards for pilots who fly for recreation.

If passed, pilots operating small airplanes for personal or recreational flying would be required to maintain a valid driver’s license. Current law requires them to have a third class medical certificate.

It would allow the pilots to fly only under visual flight regulations at or below 14,000 feet in planes with no more than six seats weighing no more than 6,000 pounds gross takeoff weight. They could not fly for compensation or faster than 250 knots.

Over the past decade, 60,000 pilots have left the industry, many of them because of the costly and time-consuming process of obtaining a third class medical certificate, information from Roberts and Moran said.

The bill, also introduced by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., builds on the success of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Sport Pilot rule, which allows pilots to fly many types of small, light planes without a third class medical certificate under certain conditions.

It would still require all pilots to undergo a flight review by a certified flight instructor every two years. During the reviews, the instructors would continue to evaluate a pilot’s physical and cognitive condition and his or her ability to operate an airplane.

“We appreciate the senators’ attention and action on this issue that has negatively affected many pilots,” Jack Pelton, chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said in a statement. “It is time to use the positive safety experience gained from a decade of sport pilot activity – as well as such flying activities as gliders and ballooning – to establish medical certification reforms that will sustain and grow general aviation in this country.”