President’s Corner, 2Q18, “Fallout from BasicMed – Threat to Professional Pilots”
Although many professional pilots requiring FAA first or second class medical certification may not be familiar with the FAA’s new BasicMed allowing some private pilots to fly without a medical certificate, they may be affected by its implications for the FAA.
For those not familiar with BasicMed, it is the result of Congressional legislation (FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 – FESSA) extending FAA funding. Information on BasicMed is available on the FAA web site at https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/. AOPA campaigned vigorously for this legislation and has extensive information on its web site at https://www.aopa.org/-/media/files/aopa/home/advocacy/pilots/medical/basicmed-pilot-and-physicians-guide_final.pdf?la=en. As of May 2018, over 30,000 US pilots have taken advantage of BasicMed to be able to fly a large variety of aircraft in airspace below 18,000 feet without a medical certificate.
The implications for professional pilots is a change in FAA procedures when requesting medical information from a pilot to determine their eligibility for medical certification. Previously, if a pilot failed to provide information to the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division in a timely basis (usually 60 days), the FAA could suspend or revoke the pilot’s medical certificate. However, the FAA would typically request the pilot return all unexpired medical certificates without any further action as long as the pilot returned the certificate within 14 days after receiving the FAA letter. Similarly, if a pilot held a Special Issuance Authorization (SIA) for one or more of many medical conditions and did not provide information required to renew the SIA, the pilot’s medical certificate would expire. If the FAA requested interim information and the pilot did not provide it, the FAA would typically withdraw the SIA and ask for the pilot to return their certificates. In both cases, no action was taken against the pilot’s pilot certificate.
Recently, we have heard from pilots who have not responded in a timely manner to FAA requests for medical information that their file is being forwarded to the Regional office for investigation and possible emergency suspension or revocation of their medical certificates and possible suspension or revocation of their pilot certificate. This is because a pilot whose most recent medical certificate has lapsed could still fly non-commercially without a medical certificate under BasicMed using their pilot certificate and completing the BasicMed physical and education training (driver’s license alone would allow only Light Sport Aircraft) if their last application had not been denied or if their last medical certificate issued valid after July 1, 2006 had not been suspended or revoked.
An emergency suspension or revocation of a medical certificate negates the opportunity to fly under BasicMed and Light Sport Aircraft. By taking action against the pilot certificate, the FAA would further remove the BasicMed option, effectively grounding the pilot from all types of operations even if there was no intention of using BasicMed. A revocation of a pilot certificate may result in having to earn all certificates and ratings again. To date, we have only seen emergency suspensions of medical certificates, but have not seen the FAA carry out actions against a pilot certificate, although the possibility exists.
What to do!
- Be sure to respond to FAA requests for medical information promptly, even if the information is incomplete. You can provide additional information subsequently.
- If you receive such a letter indicating your file has been forwarded for legal action, immediately contact your AME or our office for assistance in resolving the issue.
This new policy imposes a significant administrative burden on the FAA that it is not staffed to handle. As a result, this process moves slowly and the Regional Flight Surgeon or Aeromedical Certification Division cannot process medical information while an investigation or action is pending. Submission of information satisfactory to the Office of Aerospace medicine may halt this process and keep the pilot flying on current medical and pilot certificates. However, to date, there have been delays of several months in the FAA investigation process with medical determinations being held up during the transfer of a pilot’s case from the Office of Aerospace Medicine to investigation and legal representatives.
This is an extremely nuanced regulation. For a comprehensive explanation that may relate to individual circumstances, please see FAA Advisory Circular 68-1A https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/AC_68-1A.pdf.
Fly Safely, Stay Healthy,