Senate Committee Passes Third Class Medical Reform

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee amended and favorably reported the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 legislation this week, to enact third class medical reform, during the final Committee mark-up of the year.

Before passing the bill, the Committee adopted new language originally offered by Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) to require pilots and their personal physicians to follow an FAA medical checklist (similar to the current Form 8500-8) during physicals which will be required every four years. Both the physician and pilot will be required to sign the form verifying that the prescribed examination was completed and that any medications taken by the pilot that could interfere with safe flying were disclosed and discussed. The completed checklist must be retained in the pilot’s logbook along with a record of completion of a newly created online medical course every two years.

Primary sponsor Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and his staff have already reached out to the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) and other aviation associations to express gratitude for their continued support of the measure and to coordinate a push for full Senate passage.

“NASAO applauds the committee passage of this important legislation, which will not only benefit pilots, but also the vast network of smaller general aviation airports that they support,” said NASAO Government Affairs Manager Mark Kimberling. “We will continue working with our industry partners and Senators Inhofe and Manchin, who have led the way on this issue, to work towards final passage.”

The Committee also stripped the bill of provisions to extend new civil liability protections to medical examiners, pilot examiners, airworthiness representatives and pilots flying charitable flights because of questions about committee jurisdiction. Those provisions will be referred to the Judiciary Committee for further consideration and possible inclusion in the FAA Reauthorization. The leading Democrat cosponsor, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), indicated that all of these changes represent “good faith” bipartisan negotiations, which have led to a current total of 70 Senate cosponsors and nearly unanimous Committee support. S. 571 is now eligible for consideration by the full Senate.