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SPORT PILOT- Good News & Bad News

CLICK HERE to find out if you are eligible for Sport Pilot

There is now a special non-type-certificated Light Sport Aircraft pilot certificate which does not require FAA medical authorization.  The Bad news is that pilots, who have been denied FAA medical certification, are NOT allowed to fly under the Sport Pilot / Light-Sport Aircraft certificate rules.  The rules preclude applicants who have been previously denied FAA medical certification.

While the Sport Pilot rule permit pilots of Light-Sport-Aircraft to forgo a formal FAA medical examination, much of the regulatory verbiage is identical to the medical regulations for Recreational, Private, Commercial and Airline Transport Pilots.

Pilot Medical Solutions utilizes unique strategies to assist pilots seeking First, Second or Third Class Medical Certification.  Our services are designed to prevent denial thereby reserving the right to utilize Sport Pilot rules.

 

WHAT'S IN YOUR WALLET?

A pilot recently asked, "Must the pilot flying as a Sport Pilot, with a lapsed (NOT DENIED) FAA medical, still adhere to restrictions or specifications placed upon their airman medical certificate?"
 
Since the regulations do not specify, each pilot should have a close look at the Sport Pilot rules which among other things specify "... if a pilot knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would affect his or her ability to operate a light sport aircraft....", the pilot must refrain from acting as a pilot in command.

The "certification" restrictions placed upon someone's FAA medical certificate are part of the FAA's criteria to maintain a set class of medical certification.
 
The aeromedical rules applicable to the sport pilot can be reduced to two things:
 
(1) Have a VALID drivers license
(2) Have no medical condition which could affect light sport flight performance.

So does this mean that someone's FAA medical certificate restrictions should also be that individuals requirement for LSA flight fitness?


Many believe that all pilots who have a drivers license in hand are sport pilot fit.  This is definitely a questionable interpretation of the regulatory verbiage and its intent.  It is possible that insurance claims will be invalidated by those subscribing to such interpretations.  Keep in mind that the FAA's medical certification policies are the benchmark standard which claims have been measured by for many years.

Certainly you should consult with your insurance company, and obtain their statement in writing, as to how they will interpret such issues if there is a claim. 

 

 

  The new rule specifies "... if a pilot knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would affect his or her ability to operate a light sport aircraft, then the pilot should refrain from acting as a pilot in command".

Many pilots will recognize this phrase which is also found in FAR 61.53(a)(1).  The FAA has traditionally interpreted this to cover a broad range of medical conditions and physical deficiencies to include at least 15 disqualifying conditions.  These conditions are:

  • angina
  • coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, has been symptomatic or clinically significant
  • cardiac valve replacement
  • permanent cardiac pacemaker
  • cardiac replacement (heart transplant)
  • diabetes mellitus that requires hypoglycemic medication
  • psychosis
  • bipolar disorder
  • personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts
  • substance abuse or dependence (drugs or alcohol)
  • epilepsy
  • disturbances of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of cause
  • transient loss of control of nervous system function without satisfactory explanation of cause.

DRIVERS LICENSE NOT ENOUGH
    THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN DENIED an FAA medical will NOT be issued a Sport Pilot certificate, even if they have a driver's license, until being approved by the FAA medical branch. 

Sport Pilot applicants will utilize the revised Airman Rating Application Form 8710-1 which has being changed to accommodate Sport Pilot Applicants.  Those with medical issues must first provide sufficient documentation to satisfy the FAA through Special Issuance of a medical certificate.  Despite widely circulated information to the contrary, there is no other procedure for Sport Pilots.

While the Special Issuance process is quite tedious, most pilots find the FAA medical standards are very liberal.  Once FAA approval is obtained, medical qualification may be maintained with a valid drivers license or by the renewal of the FAA medical certificate.

FAA Final Rule, Excerpt:
"The FAA has reconsidered the circumstances in which a current and valid U.S. driver’s license should be allowed in lieu of a valid airman medical certificate and has made substantive revisions to the medical provisions in the final rule. These revisions are based on the FAA’s concern that pilots whose airman medical certificates have been denied, suspended, or revoked or whose Authorization for Special Issuance of a Medical Certificate (Authorization) has been withdrawn would be allowed to operate light-sport aircraft other than gliders and balloons under the proposed rule.

Therefore, possession of a current and valid U.S. driver’s license alone is not enough to dispel this concern. For this reason, this final rule permits using a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification based on certain conditions.

If a person has applied for an airman medical certificate, that person must have been found eligible for the issuance of at least a third-class airman medical certificate. If a person has held an airman medical certificate, that person’s most recently issued airman medical certificate must not have been revoked or suspended. If a person has been granted an Authorization, that Authorization must not have been withdrawn."

The Sport Pilot / Light Sport Aircraft Category Rules apply to Light Sport Aircraft only.  The rule is effective on September 1, 2004. 

The Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) has cautioned pilots to consult their respective states regarding drivers license rules as they are likely to find unexpected medical restrictions. 

The insurance industry continues to tighten policy qualifications after 9/11 and many believe that insurance providers will place additional restrictions on would-be sport pilots.  The FAA, physicians, lawyers, insurance providers and pilots will soon interpret and apply this new rule.

To establish eligibility for medical qualification contact us via e-mail or

by phone at 405-787-0303.


FAA SPORT PILOT FINAL RULE

[4910-13] DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration, 14 CFR Parts 1, 21, 43, 45, 61, 65, and 91
[Docket No.  FAA–2001–11133; Amendment No. 1-53; 21-85; 43-39; 45-24; 61-110; 65-45; 91-282], RIN 2120–AH19

V.5.A.ii. Medical Provisions:

Under Section 15 of SFAR No. 89, the FAA proposed to require sport pilot certificate holders; student pilots operating within the limitations of a sport pilot certificate; and higher-rated pilots who elect to exercise only sport pilot privileges to hold and possess either a current and valid U.S. driver’s license or a current and valid airman medical certificate issued under part 67. These provisions, as revised in the final rule, are located under §§61.3, 61.23, and 61.303 in the operating rules where medical certificate requirements for all pilots are found.

Under Section 111 of SFAR No. 89, the FAA proposed to require individuals exercising the privileges of a flight instructor certificate with a sport pilot rating and acting as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft other than a glider or balloon, to hold and possess a current and valid U.S. driver’s license or a current and valid airman medical certificate issued under part 67. These provisions, as revised in the final rule, are located under §§61.3 and 61.23 in the operating rules where medical certificate requirements for all flight instructors are found.

Under Section 17 of SFAR No. 89, the FAA set forth circumstances under which a medical deficiency would preclude operators from exercising sport pilot privileges. In the final rule, these provisions are located under §61.53 where medical deficiency provisions are found. These provisions are also found in §§61.23 and 61.303.

Comments received on the proposed medical provisions were mainly supportive. A minority of commenters opposed the rule. Several commenters, however, raised questions or offered other alternatives. Some requested that the FAA extend sport pilot medical provisions to recreational, and even private, pilots. A few commenters recommended minor editorial changes.

The FAA has reconsidered the circumstances in which a current and valid U.S. driver’s license should be allowed in lieu of a valid airman medical certificate and has made substantive revisions to the medical provisions in the final rule. These revisions are based on the FAA’s concern that pilots whose airman medical certificates have been denied, suspended, or revoked or whose Authorization for Special Issuance of a Medical Certificate (Authorization) has been withdrawn would be allowed to operate light-sport aircraft other than gliders and balloons under the proposed rule. Therefore, possession of a current and valid U.S. driver’s license alone is not enough to dispel this concern. For this reason, this final rule permits using a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification based on certain conditions. If a person has applied for an airman medical certificate, that person must have been found eligible for the issuance of at least a third-class airman medical certificate. If a person has held an airman medical certificate, that person’s most recently issued airman medical certificate must not have been revoked or suspended. If a person has been granted an Authorization, that Authorization must not have been withdrawn.

These provisions apply only to persons who have held or applied for an airman medical certificate or who have been granted an Authorization. It does not require the pilot of a light-sport aircraft to apply for an airman medical certificate. The words “most recent application” refer to the latest medical application that is in on file with the FAA and on which action was taken. In addition, the words “most recently issued airman medical certificate” refer to the latest airman medical certificate on file with the FAA.

In addition, the FAA has determined that the rule should explicitly provide that a pilot may not use a current and valid U.S. driver’s license in lieu of a valid airman medical certificate if the pilot knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner. This reiterates the requirement of §61.53, but ensures that a person using a driver’s license to exercise sport pilot privileges focuses on it. This does not require a pilot to qualify for an airman medical certificate, but if an individual has any question about his or her medical capacity to fly, that person should consult his or her personal physician. The individual still has the responsibility to determine whether he or she meets the provisions of §61.53.

An applicant for a student pilot certificate seeking sport pilot privileges may be asked whether:
· He or she was found eligible for the issuance of at least a third-class airman medical certificate (if he or she recently applied for an airman medical certificate).
· His or her most recently issued airman medical certificate has been suspended or revoked.
· His or her most recent Authorization has been withdrawn.

The applicant may also be asked whether he or she knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light sport aircraft in a safe manner. If the applicant answers “yes” to any of these questions, the applicant will be reminded that while he or she may be issued a student pilot certificate, he or she may not use a driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification.


By incorporating these provisions, the FAA confirms that persons who would exercise sport pilot privileges must consider their medical fitness before operating. If a person should not be exercising airman privileges for medical reasons, that person should not be conducting sport pilot privileges unless and until it is safe for that person to do so.

 

Comments that supported the proposed medical provisions:

The majority of the comments received on the proposed medical provisions were supportive. Supporting commenters regarded these proposed sections as the most critical part of the action and stated that if the FAA publishes a final rule with more restrictive medical requirements, they would withdraw support for the entire proposal. They stated that using a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as proof of general medical qualification would permit older pilots no longer qualifying for an airman medical certificate to continue flying. In addition, commenters indicated that operators of light-sport aircraft are less likely to jeopardize the safety of surrounding individuals than motorists driving vehicles on public roadways. Commenters indicated that driving a motor vehicle is often more demanding and stressful than piloting an aircraft and that the overall incidence of crashes related to medical incapacitation is very low. According to commenters, most pilots are conscientious enough to take their own health into consideration when making the decision on whether to fly.

Numerous supporters of proposed medical provisions mentioned the financial and time burden placed on pilots to maintain an airman medical certificate, noting specifically the backlog for special-issuance medical certificates. Commenters stated that many pilots cannot obtain a third-class airman medical certificate and that some pilots, while medically capable of flying, cannot afford the medical testing needed to maintain an airman medical certificate.

Many commenters viewed this proposal as a means to allow individuals who have lost their third-class airman medical certificates to operate light-sport aircraft. Commenters identifying themselves as senior citizens commonly shared this view and welcome the opportunity to return to flying after being unable to obtain an airman medical certificate for many years.

Other comments in support may be summarized generally as follows:

· The FAA airman medical certificate is aimed at more stressful tasks like those performed by commercial pilots who often fly IFR.

· FAA airman medical certificates do not provide a guarantee about how a person will feel 2 hours later and do not prevent in-flight health hazards.

· Sport pilots, in particular, do not have that “must get there” attitude.

· As long as the process of §61.53 remains in place, there is no reason to require a non-commercial pilot to hold an airman medical certificate.

· The additional requirement of a driver’s license covers the increase in risk that the public may perceive and is appropriate for the weight and speed of light-sport aircraft.

· The current regime probably leads pilots to avoid doctors and treatments for certain medical conditions (e.g., depression), thus decreasing safety.



FAA response to supporting comments
As stated in the NPRM, the FAA believes that the level of health evidenced by a current and valid U.S. driver’s license is a necessary, minimum prerequisite to safely operate light-sport aircraft other than gliders and balloons. The FAA chose to use state driver standards because they require a minimum level of health to be met before issuance. The FAA recognizes that these standards are sufficient minimum standards for drivers operating their automobiles at high speeds and in close proximity to other automobiles. They also are sufficient as minimum standards for pilots of light-sport aircraft other than gliders and balloons, absent evidence of a medical condition that would make the pilot otherwise unsafe to fly. Further, a state driver’s license may be revoked or suspended for certain offenses that also may impact the license holder’s ability and fitness to fly a light-sport aircraft, thus providing an added level of protection. If the U.S. driver’s license of a person holding a sport pilot certificate or rating (who does not possess a valid airman medical certificate) is revoked or rescinded for any offense--including, among others, substance abuse, excessive speeding, careless and reckless operation of a vehicle, numerous traffic violations--the individual will not be able to exercise sport pilot privileges until the license is reinstated or the person obtains a valid airman medical certificate.

While pilots of light-sport aircraft will be required to hold and possess at least a current and valid U.S. driver’s license, meeting this requirement alone does not equate to fitness to fly. The FAA cannot over-emphasize the crucial responsibility placed on those exercising sport pilot privileges to carefully consider fitness to fly before every flight. The FAA has always understood that pilots’ own judgment regarding their fitness to fly is their most basic and important safety responsibility and that no level of airman medical certification will ever alleviate this responsibility. Those who would exercise sport pilot privileges must understand that, by taking control of an aircraft as pilot in command, they have made an unequivocal declaration as to their belief in their fitness to fly. To ensure that pilots focus on this responsibility, the final rule, as adopted, specifically provides that a pilot may not use a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification if he or she knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner.

The FAA believes that these minimum standards constitute only one aspect of the overall determination as to fitness to fly light-sport aircraft. The possession of a current and valid U.S. driver’s license is not in and of itself sufficient to establish the fitness of the pilot. Therefore, it must be clear that a U.S. driver’s license is not, for the purposes of this action, an FAA airman medical certificate. The FAA cautions that reference to a sport pilot “driver’s license medical” should be avoided because a current and valid U.S. driver’s license does not become a sport pilot certificate holder’s airman medical certificate.

Moreover, the FAA is concerned that a number of commenters believe that the proposed rule would have presented an avenue for pilots who have been denied an airman medical certificate under part 67 to continue to fly. The FAA believes that most pilots who become aware through an airman medical examination of a condition that could prevent them from flying safely would not continue to fly. The commenters reveal, however, that a number of pilots might not give sufficient weight to the evidence of their medical conditions in deciding whether they are fit to fly. The FAA has determined, therefore, that the best course of action for aviation safety is to not allow a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification if a person’s most recent application for an airman medical certificate has been denied or most recently issued airman medical certificate has been suspended or revoked.

The possession of a current and valid U.S. driver’s license in no way constitutes a certification by the FAA that the holder of that license is fit to fly light-sport aircraft-that certification is provided by the pilot alone. It merely allows that the holder has met minimum FAA requirements and is permitted to operate a light-sport aircraft subject to the requirements of part 61 and the pilot’s own determination of his or her fitness to fly.

 

Comments that supported the U.S. driver’s license proposal for ultralight operations but not for more complex light-sport aircraft operations

One commenter agreed that a U.S. driver’s license is acceptable for ultralights and powered parachutes, but indicated that “all pilots of powered flight (single-engine aircraft) should undergo initial and periodic medical examinations.” According to this commenter, since a third-class airman medical certificate is the current FAA standard for general aviation, it should be the same standard for sport pilots flying within the single-engine category.

One commenter had no objection to those exercising sport pilot privileges being able to use a U.S. driver’s license to verify health. According to this commenter, this proposal can benefit those who cannot pass an FAA medical examination for whatever reason, but the commenter points out that a certain level of physical ability is required for safe flight. This commenter has compiled data that indicates that medical issues are virtually no problem when considering ultralight flight and therefore it strongly objects to a medical physical requirement for those pilots and instructors. Pilot medical data specifically relating to the operation of the significantly heavier and faster aircraft (up to 130 mph) as now proposed by the FAA, however, is not so clear. Therefore, the commenter could not comment on the safety of allowing pilots of heavier, faster aircraft which fly over congested areas and into controlled airspace to fly without a medical examination.



FAA response to commenters who supported the proposal in part

Commenters seem to be suggesting that the FAA adopt separate sets of standards; a two-tiered approach for this rulemaking action that would require airman medical certification for certain sport pilot certificate holders. The FAA did not propose such an approach because, by doing so, the regulations basically would remain as they are today. By establishing new rules and creating a new sport pilot certificate the FAA intends to allow for limited operations in a safe manner that will bring pilots operating ultralight-like aircraft into a more uniform regulatory system. Because the commenters do not describe how the FAA could implement their proposals other than to essentially maintain current regulatory parameters, the FAA could not consider them.



Comments that opposed the proposed medical provisions

One medical organization commented that its general membership was “overwhelmingly against” the NPRM’s recommended use of a driver’s license. According to this organization, the FAA desire for not “creating a significant financial barrier” is without merit with respect to the airman medical certificate. The organization indicated that a 2001 survey of airmen medical examiners with at least a 66% response rate indicates the average cost of a third-class medical is $66.69. Annualized for those under 40, the cost is $22.23 and for those over 40, $33.35, which can hardly be considered a financial burden.

In addition, this organization stated that the NPRM’s conclusion that driving fast in close proximity to other automobiles is safe and achieved by the varied medical clearances for driver’s licenses, as applied across states, is misleading and supporting statistics are glaringly absent. Using only fatal crashes where a driver was reportedly “ill, passed out/blacked out” as a percent of total fatal crashes for just the year 2000 shows 0.9%. This percentage goes up if other driver factors such as medication reaction, not using medication, or other physical impairment are also considered. In 1 year, this figure is nearly five times that of the NPRM-quoted 7-year period where an airman medical certificate is required in aviation. According to this organization, “[t]he FAA’s belief that the medical standards that permit an individual to drive…provides an adequate level of safety to operate…aircraft is not supported. Actually the opposite is true in that the numbers indicate an unreasonable risk to aviation safety for any level of piloting.”



FAA response to comments that opposed the proposed medical provisions

The FAA concurs that, in the case of some applicants for airman medical certification, the cost of an airman medical examination is not cost-prohibitive. If the AME directs an applicant to undergo further testing beyond a standard physical, however, the cost to obtain an airman medical certificate can become more expensive. Under this action, individuals will have to obtain an airman medical certificate if they do not have or do not want to obtain a U.S. driver’s license. The intent of this action, however, is not to recommend a practical fee or to analyze the cost factors for obtaining an airman medical certificate; it is to assure that, for sport pilot operations, an applicant can meet a basic level of health. The 2001 survey the commenter referenced was a compilation of information obtained from 3,800 individuals over a 4-year period who filled out a questionnaire at FAA-sponsored airman medical examiners periodic training seminars about their familiarity with and use of the Federal Air Surgeon’s Bulletin. It was not specifically a questionnaire aimed at performing an analysis of AME fees.

The FAA does not intend to imply that driving an automobile and piloting an aircraft are exactly similar or that driving fast and in close proximity to other automobiles is safe. The FAA makes the comparison to driving to indicate only that, when compared to sport pilot operations, driving can be more stressful and can require more skill sometimes than flying a light-sport aircraft. For the NPRM, the FAA reviewed accident data relating to the medical condition(s) of a pilot not required to hold an airman medical certificate as a causal factor in general aviation accidents and not accident data relating to a driver’s medical condition as causal factors in fatal automobile accidents. Therefore, the FAA cannot respond to the commenter regarding the 0.9% rate of total fatal automobile crashes in 2000 relating to a certain medical condition of the driver. Further, the FAA does not have enough accidents related to medical causes to be able to assign a yearly accident rate for fatal general aviation accidents. It should be noted, as stated in the NPRM, that the NTSB will investigate any accidents or incidents involving certificated sport pilots, light-sport aircraft, or persons exercising the privileges of a sport pilot. The FAA anticipates working closely with the NTSB to analyze light-sport aircraft accidents suspected of being caused by a pilot’s medical condition.



General opposing comments

Opposing commenters also addressed the following:

· The ease with which a U.S. driver’s license may be obtained in most states.

· The variation in standards among the states.

· The lack of serious medical testing during the application process for a U.S. driver’s license.

· Inconsistent and inadequate vision tests.

· The process for obtaining a U.S. driver’s license differs from that involved with obtaining an airman medical certificate and that driver’s license medical standards and FAA airman medical standards differ.

· The FAA did not enact its 1995 proposal to allow recreational pilots to exercise privileges without an airman medical certificate for many reasons, including safety concerns, and there have been no substantial changes in need or requirements for safety since that ruling.



FAA response to general opposing comments

The FAA reiterates that the intent of this action is not to reduce safety or to encourage those experiencing medical problems, including vision problems, to exercise any type of sport pilot operation. Individuals with medical conditions that would prevent them from flying safely must not exercise sport pilot privileges. Additionally, individuals using a driver’s license to exercise sport pilot privileges whose most recent application for an airman medical certificate has been denied or whose most recently issued airman medical certificate has been suspended or revoked must not exercise sport pilot privileges.
This action requires a basic level of health for sport pilot operations, if that basic level cannot be met then sport pilot privileges must not be exercised. The intent of this action is not to encourage those who have medical conditions or who may develop a medical condition(s) to become lax about their health and take chances piloting a light-sport aircraft. As it does with all pilots, the FAA recommends that persons holding a sport pilot certificate or rating consult with their private physician routinely and especially if they have any indication of adverse health. The FAA recommends routine vision screening.
The FAA acknowledges that the process to obtain and maintain an airman medical certificate versus that to obtain and maintain a U.S. driver’s license is different and that U.S. driver’s license standards vary from state to state. Even though the process for applying for and renewing a U.S. driver’s license varies throughout the United States, U.S. issuing authorities require applicants to verify some basic level of health on their various driver’s license applications. Each state requires an applicant to meet minimum vision standards. Many authorities require applicants to reveal any medical condition(s) that might preclude them from obtaining a U.S. driver’s license in that jurisdiction. If any of these applicants affirm having received treatment for a medical condition (e.g., stroke or paralysis, brain disorder, heart disorder, seizures) on an application, a licensed physician must further evaluate whether that person should be allowed to drive a motor vehicle. The same is true for an individual who applies for an airman medical certificate who indicates that he or she has a medical condition. That individual’s Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) must further evaluate whether that person should be issued an airman medical certificate. Individuals who are not medically fit to operate a motor vehicle should not exercise the privileges of a sport pilot certificate. It is true that an individual who holds either a U.S. driver’s license or an airman medical certificate could choose to operate a motor vehicle or conduct sport pilot operations when not medically fit to do so. If sport pilots choose to do so, however, they are violating not only the terms of their U.S. driver’s license or airman medical certificate but also the long-standing provisions of §61.53 that pertain to prohibition on operations during medical deficiency. Sport pilots using a driver’s license must also comply with the provisions of §§61.3, 61.23, and 61.303.

The FAA rescinded its 1995 proposal to allow recreational pilots to self-evaluate under the provisions of §61.53 because it had no experience allowing recreational pilots, who may pilot more sophisticated and faster aircraft, to fly without FAA airman medical certification. Conversely, the FAA has had many years of experience allowing pilots of what are considered ultralight vehicles today to fly without medical certification and, based on this experience, believes this rule provides an equivalent level of safety for those being brought into compliance. Validating this experience is the accident data that the FAA has received under the terms of exemptions that have been granted to operate a two-seat ultralight vehicle for training purposes.



Comments that favored extending sport pilot medical provisions to other pilots

Several commenters favored extending proposed sport pilot medical provisions to pilots with higher-level certificates. These commenters contended that the same reasoning and justification proposed for sport pilots should apply to other pilots, recreational pilots in particular, who are subject to many of the same limitations such as those on carrying passengers, use of aircraft not having fixed gear, night flight, and visibility restrictions. It is suggested that the FAA review sport pilot data over time to provide for private pilots to use the sport pilot medical provisions that will be adopted under this rule.

According to commenters it has been adequately proven that existing medicine cannot predict heart attacks or strokes, so elimination of the FAA airman medical examination would have no adverse affect on safety.



FAA response to comments that favored extending sport pilot medical provisions to other pilots

The medical provisions the FAA proposed under this action were proposed for sport pilot operations only. The FAA has never considered expanding these provisions nor would it be within the scope of this action to consider doing so. The FAA agrees with commenters that it must gain experience with sport pilot medical provisions.


Commenters’ general remarks and questions about proposed medical provisions

Some commenters who expressed support for the proposal in principle and for the option of a U.S. driver’s license over an airman medical certificate raised the following issues:

Question: What “known medical conditions” would prevent a person from exercising sport pilot privileges?

Response: The FAA has not established a list of disqualifying medical conditions under §61.53. That could prevent a person from relying on a driver’s license as the sole evidence of medical qualification. If a person chooses to exercise sport pilot privileges using an airman medical certificate, the FAA’s disqualifying medical conditions set forth under part 67 apply. The ability to certify no known medical conditions becomes a matter between the pilot and his or her AME. If an individual’s most recent application for an airman medical certificate has been denied after examination by an AME, that person would not be able to use a driver’s license as evidence of medical qualification.

If an individual chooses to medically qualify for light-sport aircraft operations using a current and valid U.S. driver’s license, then the restrictions and limitations listed on the U.S. driver’s license apply, as do those imposed by judicial or administrative order for the operation of a motor vehicle. The determination as to whether a pilot has a medical condition that would make him or her unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner is the sole responsibility of the pilot. The ability to certify no known medical conditions that would prohibit the safe operation of an aircraft is a matter about which a pilot should consult his or her personal physician.

Those experiencing medical symptoms that would prevent them from safely exercising the privileges of their sport pilot certificate, or that raise a reasonable concern, however, cannot claim to have no known medical deficiencies.

The FAA acknowledges that those interested only in exercising sport pilot privileges may not seek airman medical certification or may allow their current airman medical certificate to expire. This is acceptable under this rule. Depending on the FAA’s experience under this rule, however, it could choose to establish a list of disqualifying medical conditions or even revert to requiring airman medical certification if it becomes apparent that those exercising sport pilot privileges are not exercising reasonable judgment with regard to their medical fitness to fly.


Question: Is the special issuance of a medical certificate under §67.401 considered a denial of an application for an airman medical certificate?

Response: No. A pilot who has received a special issuance of a medical certificate may also exercise sport pilot privileges using a U.S. driver’s license, provided he or she is medically fit to fly.

Remark: The proposed medical provisions discriminate against the following:

· Those who live in rural Alaska who do not drive and therefore cannot take advantage of the option of using a driver’s license.

· Those who hold foreign pilot certificates or foreign driver’s licenses.

· Those who could qualify for a third-class airman medical certificate but do not choose or otherwise have the need, desire, or money to have a U.S. driver’s license.

· Those pilots other than sport pilots who are required to hold an FAA airman medical certificate.

It is not the FAA’s intention to discriminate against anyone or to disadvantage those who do not have or cannot obtain a current and valid U.S. driver’s license. This action provides an alternate means of compliance with full FAA airman medical certification for sport pilot certificate holders only and for those who are able to obtain and maintain a current and valid U.S. driver’s license only. Standards for those who wish to maintain higher-level pilot certificates and ratings remain unaffected by this action; therefore this action cannot be considered discriminatory against them because operations they would conduct do not fall within the scope of this action.

The FAA understands that there may be individuals in the United States who may have difficulty traveling to their licensing entities to acquire a U.S. driver’s license. The FAA notes that it may be similarly difficult for some individuals to obtain an FAA airman medical certificate. While the FAA appreciates that requiring those holding a sport pilot certificate or rating to hold and possess either a current and valid U.S. driver’s license or a valid airman medical certificate does place a disproportionately higher burden on those individuals who live some distance from the appropriate certification resources, no regulation can have an entirely uniform effect on all entities subject to its requirements and limitations. The FAA believes that these minimum standards are necessary and that it would not be in the interest of safety to alter them because they may place a slightly greater hardship on certain individuals over others.

Because this rule requires a current and valid U.S. driver’s license, a foreign driver’s license would not be acceptable. Because of the events of September 11, 2001 and ongoing harmonization efforts, guidance on issuing U.S. pilot certificates and airman medical certificates based on foreign certificates continues to evolve. Current guidance can be found in FAA Order 8700.1 “General Aviation Inspector’s Handbook,” chapter 29, “Issue of a U.S. Pilot Certificate on the Basis of a Foreign-Pilot License.”

Remark: Many drivers operate motor vehicles while taking narcotics and tranquilizers even when counseled not to do so. Also, individuals who have been advised by their physician not to drive due to a medical condition may continue to drive anyway.

Response: The FAA acknowledges that people may choose to continue to drive and even fly against medical advice or while taking certain medications. What is more, some may not even consult with a private physician about a medical condition or before taking medication. Unfortunately, there are those who will take chances and any action the FAA may take would not dissuade these individuals. Further, this situation can apply not only to drivers and pilots, but to operators of any kind of transport vehicle, machinery, or equipment. Fortunately, however, aviation accident statistics rarely indicate medical factors as probable cause. This would seem to indicate that, for the most part, pilots do not take chances flying when they know they are not medically fit to do so.

Question: Why are the requirements for operating light-sport aircraft higher than requirements to operate gliders?

Response: Today’s technological advances in light-sport aircraft call for a set of standards that could no longer be served by those set forth for balloons and gliders. The FAA is adopting this rule to increase safety in the light-sport aircraft community by closing gaps in existing regulations and accommodating new advances in technology. Therefore, requirements for light-sport aircraft and sport pilot certificate holders are necessarily more rigid than those for glider operations. The FAA believes that a permanent and appropriate level of regulation is necessary. Because the FAA has added more requirements for certification and training for light-sport aircraft, it also determined that some medical provisions for sport pilot certificate holders would be necessary. While airman medical certification is optional for light-sport operations, some minimum level of proof of general good health is warranted. The FAA determined that the ability to meet the medical requirements necessary to obtain a U.S. driver’s license would be appropriate.

Question: Can deaf individuals obtain sport pilot certificate?
Response: Yes. Deaf individuals are eligible to apply for pilot certificates. Deaf individuals interested in piloting should consult the FAA website at http://www2.faa.gov/avr/afs/deaffaq.htm.

Question: Will flight instructors and employees of flight schools be required to adhere to DOT drug-testing policies?

Response: For sport pilot operations, flight instructors and employees of flight schools are not considered “employees who must be tested” as defined under part 121, appendix I. Flight instructors with a sport pilot rating acting as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft other than a glider or balloon, however, must adhere to the provisions of existing §§61.15, 91.17, and 91.19 regarding offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

Other suggested modifications from commenters
Many commenters provided suggested alternatives to the proposed medical provisions. Among others, these suggestions included the following:

· Institute a fourth-class airman medical certificate;

· Require a third-class airman medical certificate for those with no, or no recent, appreciable flight time;

· Require a third-class airman medical certificate for night flight and IFR flight;

· Require an eye examination at a local clinic in lieu of a U.S. driver’s license;

· Have the option of having an evaluation from a private physician once every 5 years in lieu of a U.S. driver’s license;

· Allow a written medical declaration or certificate of good health to replace the driver’s license for those who do not want to get a U.S. driver’s license or an airman medical certificate;

· Do not allow by-mail or on-line renewals of a U.S. driver’s license for sport pilot operations;

· Have a “grandfather clause” to allow pilots, who might lose airman medical certification but who have a lifetime of flying experience and flying time, to continue to fly the aircraft they have flown all their lives even if that aircraft would not meet the weight restrictions laid out in the proposal.



FAA response to other suggested modifications from commenters

The FAA considered several viable alternatives to airman medical certification. As discussed in the proposed rule, the ARAC also proposed many alternatives. The FAA proposed to allow either airman medical certification as currently set forth under part 67 or a current and valid U.S. driver’s license as a means for holders of sport pilot certificates and ratings to meet medical qualifications because it wanted to avoid creating a new class of airman medical certificate that might not be viable. The FAA already has an elaborate airman medical certification program for higher-rated pilots. If sport pilots do not want to choose airman medical certification then they choose to be subject to the medical protocols established by U.S. driver’s licensing entities. The FAA wanted a viable, proven means of certification such as that already established within the FAA and among U.S. driver’s licensing entities. Creating a new class of airman medical certificate would involve more comprehensive regulations (e.g., amendments to parts 61, 67, and 183) because it would involve new airman certification rules, new medical standards, and perhaps new designees or an expansion of the role of existing designees. It would require a new, special category of disqualifying medical conditions, new forms, new certificates, and further paperwork and recordkeeping requirements that light-sport operations do not appear to warrant. Any of these alternatives proposed by commenters, ARAC, or considered by the FAA would be difficult to regulate and a burden to implement.

While many of these comments for alternatives and additions to the proposed sport pilot medical provisions may have merit, the commenters did not provide cost justification or any detailed discussion of how the FAA could propose adopting and implementing them.

Editorial comments on proposed medical provisions
One organization recommended that proposed Section 111 be entitled “Must I hold an airman pilot and medical certificate as a Sport Pilot Flight Instructor?” rather than “Must I hold an airman medical certificate?” It recommended that proposed Section 111 be reworded to bring the requirement of this regulation in line with the requirements of §61.183, which is to hold a pilot certificate in order to be flight instructor.

Another commenter suggested that the word “requirement,” used in SFAR No. 89 section 3 (b), should be replaced with the word “reasons.” According to this commenter, “requirements” is not the correct word because “requirements” never prevented anyone from speaking, reading, or understanding English. Using the word “reasons” would allow for consistent usage of the term under current regulations.



FAA response to editorial comments on proposed medical provisions
The comments requesting editorial changes have merit. The FAA adopts medical provisions that more clearly define requirements for flight instructors and that avoid the incorrect use of the terminology “medical requirements.” The terminology the FAA uses under existing §§61.123, 61.153, 61.183, and 61.213 is “medical reasons,” which is correct.

Other editorial change

The FAA is changing the words “current and valid” when referring to an airman medical certificate to “valid” to avoid redundancy. An airman medical certificate is “valid” provided it has not expired as set forth under existing §61.23. Because there are no recency-of-experience requirements associated with an airman medical certificate, the word “current” is redundant and therefore not necessary.

Future Rulemaking on Private Pilots with Weight-Shift-Control or Powered Parachute Ratings

During the process of drafting the final rule, the FAA recognized that it did not specifically propose medical eligibility requirements for private pilots with a weight-shift-control or powered parachute rating. This would have inadvertently defaulted these pilots to a requirement to hold at least a third-class airman medical certificate to exercise the privileges associated with those ratings. This was not the FAA’s intent. However, because the FAA did not propose and seek public comment on allowing private pilots with a weight-shift-control or powered parachute rating to operate those aircraft without holding a third-class airman medical certificate, the FAA must initiate future rulemaking action. It should be noted that persons wishing to operate weight-shift-control aircraft or powered parachutes while exercising sport pilot privileges, but not private pilot privileges, may do so under this rule. In addition, under current rules, a weight-shift-control aircraft can be operated as an experimental powered glider, with an endorsement for self-launching, without an airman medical certificate.

End of FAA Final Rule Excerpt, Medical Certification of Airmen for the Operation of Light-Sport Aircraft

Download Complete Final Sport Pilot Rule

Pilot Medical Solutions expects that Special Issuance (waivers)

may be utilized for known medical deficiencies.

Additional excerpts from the original Sport Pilot NPRM:

§ 89.Section 13. Do regulations other than those contained in this SFAR apply to a sport pilot?

Yes. As a certificated pilot, you must comply with 14 CFR part 61 and with the general operating and flight rules under 14 CFR part 91 of this chapter. In addition, you must comply with all other applicable regulations under this chapter.

This implies that the FAR's which refer to disqualifying drugs or medical conditions may apply to Sport Pilots.

Medical FAR's Part 61, Part 67, Part 91

§ 89.Section 17. Am I prohibited from operating a light-sport aircraft if I have a medical deficiency?

Under the proposal if a pilot knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would affect his or her ability to operate a light-sport aircraft, then the pilot would have to refrain from acting as a pilot in command.

   
If you hold a sport pilot certificate or a student pilot certificate to operate light-sport aircraft … And… Then…
(a) That is a glider or balloon, --- You must not act as pilot in command of the aircraft if you know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make you unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner.
(b) Other than a glider or balloon, You hold a U.S. driver’s license (regardless of whether you hold an airman medical certificate issued under 14 CFR part 67), You must not act as pilot in command of the aircraft if you know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make you unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner.
(c) Other than a glider or balloon, (1) You hold an airman medical certificate issued under 14 CFR part 67, but don’t hold a U.S. driver’s license, (i) You must not act as pilot in command of the aircraft if:

(iA) You know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make you unable to meet the requirements of at least a third-class medical certificate the requirements of at least a third-class medical certificate; or

(iiB) You are taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in you being unable to meet the requirements of at least a third-class medical certificate.

   

§ 89.Section 15. Must I hold an airman medical certificate?

In lieu of the provisions of 14 CFR 61.23(a)(3)(iii), which require a student pilot to hold an airman medical certificate, you must hold and possess while exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate to operate a light-sport aircraft or a sport pilot certificate, when operating other than a glider or balloon:

(a) A current and valid U.S. driver’s license; or
(b) A current and valid airman medical certificate issued under 14 CFR part 67.

Proposed § 89.section 15 of SFAR 89 would require you, while exercising the privileges of a student pilot operating light-sport aircraft or a sport pilot (other than a glider or balloon), to hold and possess either a current and valid U.S. driver’s license or a current and valid airman medical certificate issued under part 67. 

The FAA would consider a U.S. driver’s license to be any license to operate a motor vehicle issued by a state, the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, a territory, a possession, or the Federal government.

Although the process for applying for a driver’s license varies throughout the United States, U.S. issuing authorities typically require applicants to verify some basic level of health on their various driver’s license applications. 

Each State requires an applicant to meet minimum vision standards. Additionally, many authorities require applicants to provide a summary of any medical condition(s) that might preclude them from obtaining a U.S. driver’s license in that jurisdiction.

In the District of Columbia, for example, applicants for a driver’s license are asked to indicate whether they have ever been treated for any of the following:

  • stroke or paralysis
  • loss of function in an extremity
  • alcoholism or drug abuse
  • a mental disorder
  • a brain disorder
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • cataracts or other eye diseases
  • any heart disorder
  • seizure disorder or fainting spells
  • poor muscle control, or dizzy spells.

If a driver’s license applicant affirms having received treatment for any of these conditions, a licensed physician must further evaluate whether that person should be allowed to drive a motor vehicle. 

If the U.S. driver’s license of a pilot who does not possess a current and valid airman medical certificate is revoked or rescinded for any offense—including, among others, substance abuse, excessive speeding, careless and reckless operation of a vehicle, numerous traffic violations—the individual’s pilot certificate would not be valid until the license is reinstated. 

Unless and until the U.S. driver’s license is reinstated, a pilot would not be authorized to operate a light sport aircraft. If an individual is precluded from driving an automobile, then the FAA believes that the individual should not operate a light-sport aircraft – a more complex and demanding activity.

It is possible that a student pilot or a sport pilot whose U.S. driver’s license has been revoked or rescinded could seek third-class airman medical certification as a means to obtaining certification to operate light-sport aircraft. 

Note FAA Form 8500-8, Application for Airman Medical Certificate or Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate, under Items 18 and 20, applicants must state whether their U.S. driver’s license has been denied, suspended, cancelled, or revoked. An applicant must authorize the FAA, as set forth under existing § 67.7, access to search the National Driver Register to obtain information on condition(s) that might preclude the issuance of an third-class airman medical certificate.

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SPORT PILOT NPRM FINAL RULE FAA Website FAA Press Release  Sport Pilot Summary by Jon Thornburgh, CFI

                                                                                                        Updated July 8, 2008                

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