AOPA and EAA Set Out to Eliminate Medical Certification for Private Pilots


If AOPA and EAA have their way, medical certificates may become a thing of the past. Amidst a dramatic Star Wars entrance at the annual Pancake Breakfast, AOPA President Craig Fuller and EAA President Rod Hightower announced a united front to change the face of medical airmen certification.

The two organizations are petitioning the FAA for an exemption to the medical certification rule that will allow a pilot to operate an aircraft recreationally with only a driver’s license and special training in medical self-certification.

Craig Fuller and Rod Hightower discussing medical certification at AOPA Summit 2011

Fuller and Hightower pointed out that this petition could save the federal government as much as $240 million without adversely affecting safety. For seven years, sport pilots have been allowed to operate without an FAA issued medical certificate and Hightower was eager to point out that there has not been a single medical incapacitation accident since the sport pilot rule was approved.

On safety, Fuller claimed that replacing medical certificates with a self-certification training course will likely improve safety. Under the current rules, pilots holding a 3rd class medical need only visit a doctor once every 24 to 60 calendar months depending on age, but receive very little training on determining their personal fitness for flight.

If accepted, the new exemption will allow many older pilots to return to the cockpit while opening the doors for more student pilots who might otherwise be denied private pilot training.

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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

7 Replies to AOPA and EAA Set Out to Eliminate Medical Certification for Private Pilots

  1. Brian V says:

    I’m all for this. Other than being a diabetic (under control) I’m still not ready to deal with the FAA in getting my medical back (it lapsed several years ago, as couldn’t afford to fly) but now I’m at a different part of my life I want to fly again. I do like the requirement of special training for understanding of self-certification. I also feel that it should be required that a pilot make at least a yearly visit to their family dr for blood work and checkup. We may feel healthy and fit, but without some blood work now and then, there could be something seriously wrong that if found earlier and more easily resolved.

    • Craig and Rod made a great point about the fact that we already are required to self certify, but mostly lack the training, other than the old “IMSAFE” checklist. This is also a very powerful political move for both organizations as it may to provide a hefty boost to pilot numbers and AOPA / EAA memberships as well.

  2. Jamesfromnyc says:

    I think this is a good move. It will make new LSAs less expensive and maybe that old Cherokee you can’t fly because off a lost medical will be now worth more than 20k.


  3. Mike Couillard says:

    Is there any idea when this legislation might be passed? I’ve heard anything from this coming spring (overly optimistic) to several years down the road (sure hope not!).

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