Shutdown Breakdown – How the government shutdown is helping some Pilots.
Since the FAA medical certification division is operating on a skeleton crew, many pilots have been grounded waiting for medical authorizations. For some of these pilots-in-waiting there are other ways to get in the air. Pilot Medical Solutions has been fielding extra calls from shutdown pilots. In several cases we have discovered airmen who did not need to wait.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for new or existing pilots is not always required. Some pilots have discovered alternatives to the increasingly long wait for government approval. Pilot Medical Solutions has helped many pilots discover what they had missed in FAA correspondence letters. For others, alternative flight fitness rules or requirements may be an option.
FAA letters can be hard to understand and sometimes they include errors or omissions which can mask a pilot’s options. In addition, the FAA has liberalized medical certification standards over the last few years and has allowed Aviation Medical Examiners (AME’s) to certify Pilots with many conditions which were previously only certified by the actual FAA. Unfortunately many pilots and some AME’s are not up-to-speed on these allowances. In other cases there are options or privileges under different flight rules such as Sport Pilot and Basic Medical Rules (BasicMed). BasicMed is a relatively new allowance by the federal government which usually does not require formal FAA medical certification for limited flight operations.
Pilot Medical Solutions has been fielding many new calls as a result of the government shutdown and some pilots are discovering that they are already cleared to fly or that an AME can issue a medical certificate. It is important to note that while some pilots can be approved at the AME level, some have been unnecessarily deferred to the FAA in Oklahoma for final review or decision. This is never good. Holidays, winter weather and the shutdown have made this worse. Pilots need to receive clear guidance to establish their options and avoid being sent into the shutdown jungle. If FAA medical certification isn’t required or they can operate under alternative rules until the shutdown ends pilots should know before they go to an AME. Airmen with certain issues may find that they should not get an FAA medical exam and let their 1st class certificate lapse to a lower class. Finally, there is a large contingent of pilots who have simply failed to submit sufficient information and waiting for the FAA is not the true limiting factor. Pilots can call Pilot Medical Solutions at 405-787-0303 to discuss their case and to talk about aeromedical options and alternatives.