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Third Class Medical Reform

From Mark Baker, President and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Every day of the week I’m receiving letters from members like you asking where we stand in the battle for Third Class Medical reform. Some members are concerned about the process moving too slowly. Others are concerned that we might never achieve this needed reform.

I’m writing to – hopefully – answer your questions. My goal today is to tell you exactly where we’ve been, where things stand right now, and where we’re going next.

And let me say first that I’m 100% committed to getting this done!

Yes, it’s been a long process. More than three years have gone by since AOPA and EAA first petitioned the FAA to change these outdated, burdensome, and expensive requirements.

Last year we got tired of waiting, and urged our friends in Congress to introduce legislation to require FAA to move forward with reform. By the end of 2014 more than 180 members of Congress had signed on as co-sponsors to this legislation. Not only that, but the FAA responded as well – by drafting a reform proposal of its own.

However, this FAA proposal has never been seen by the public and has been stalled for “review” at the Department of Transportation for more than a year. Why? Because the Obama Administration has made a decision that Third Class reform does not fit into their agenda.

But we’re not waiting around. Instead, we’re focusing all of our efforts on our legislative options.

This year, in the new 114th Congress, we urged our friends in Congress to reintroduce Third Class Medical reform in both the U.S. House and the Senate. These new bills – H.R. 1062 and S. 571 – are commonly known as the “Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2.” Already more than 125 U.S. House members have signed on as co-sponsors, and more than half the members of U.S. Senate have signed on as co-sponsors as well.

These bills essentially expand the successful, decade-old, sport pilot rule with no recurring medical requirement to a much larger group of GA pilots. The bills include VFR and IFR flights up to 18,000 MSL, in aircraft up to 6,000 pounds MTOW, at 250 knots or less, and carrying not more than 5 passengers plus the pilot-in-command.

Passing this legislation is AOPA’s #1 legislative priority and our legislative team continues to work tirelessly to enact the Pilot’s Bill of Rights into law.

Whether we pass medical reform by bringing this legislation directly to the House and Senate floors, or as an amendment to another piece of legislation, is unimportant – as long as we get the job done.

For example, earlier this summer, we tried to attach an amendment to the Senate highway bill – a common practice with “must-pass” legislation, and a move that was strongly supported by more than a dozen aviation organizations and associations.

We’re also seeking to include Third Class reform in the upcoming FAA reauthorization debate that will begin when the Congress returns from its August recess after Labor Day. Again, it’s unclear exactly when this bill will come up for a vote, but when it does, we’ll be there with a full-court press to have medical reform included in this critical FAA funding bill.

And of course, we’ll continue to build support in Congress for our stand-alone Pilot’s Bill of Rights legislation – and move these bills to the House and Senate floors the moment we get the chance.

The bottom line is that the legislative process is unpredictable. It’s a winding road. It takes a huge effort to educate members of Congress about an issue and get them on board. And there are always twists and turns in the political process that are beyond AOPA’s control.

But one thing is for certain – we’ll use every available means to pass Third Class Medical reform into law. We will urge our friends in Congress to attach it to FAA reauthorization or any other bill that’s moving through Congress. And we’ll also continue to work to pass this reform on its own. But we’ll NEVER give up!

And your efforts today can play a huge role in keeping Third Class Medical reform on the table and moving forward in Washington.

Last month, we asked AOPA members like you to get in touch with your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. Almost overnight, 19 Senators added their names to the Pilot’s Bill of Rights and now more than half of the United States Senate is co-sponsoring the bill. Yes, your voice does make a difference.

So PLEASE, keep calling and writing your elected officials! If they’ve already co-sponsored Third Class reform, let them know you appreciate their support. If not, ask them to get on board.

Sometimes all it takes is a handful of voters speaking out on an issue to get an elected official to sit up and take notice. Every call and every letter matters.

And the other action you can take right now that can have a huge impact on this issue is to make a special contribution to AOPA’s advocacy efforts today.

No other organization has the political clout to push Third Class reform over the top in the U.S. House and Senate. But to fight this battle and win takes resources. To build support for Third Class reform, we’re rallying the GA community across the United States to attend town hall meetings, send letters, make calls, and visit personally with elected officials.

Whatever it takes, we’re 100% committed – and we won’t stop until we succeed. But I need your help to keep this effort fully funded. Your grassroots voice and your extra financial support are the most powerful tools we have, and no one can take your place in this fight.

By making a contribution today of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 or more, you’ll bring us a few steps closer to success. Alone, none of us can get the job done.

Together, no one can stop us. I hope this email answers your personal questions about Third Class Medical reform.

And I hope I’ve made it clear that, YES, we can win this battle if we stay committed and continue to fight smart. We’re working this issue hard every single day, we’re making progress, and we will do this if we work together and keep fighting as a team.

Thank you for your immediate response and for taking a stand in this critical fight for our fellow pilots and our freedom to fly! I look forward to the day when a lot more of America’s pilots can fly without the hassle and expense of a medical process that is badly in need of reform, and I look forward to celebrating a huge victory with you when we finally cross the finish line.

Thanks again for being part of our team.

Mark R. Baker
AOPA President & CEO

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