There is an interesting petition ("proposed rule making") being considered by the FAA to eliminate the third class medical for pilots operating aircraft of less than 6,000 lbs max gross weight under Part 91. The proposal seeks to extend the "LSA rule" which requires only a valid drivers license.
This month's Aviation Safety magazine has an editorial on this topic which, among other things, notes that:
- Over the 6 years in which the LSA rule has been in effect, there have been zero examples of LSA accidents or incidents resulting from a pilot's medical incapacitation.
- Between 2004 and 2010, there were no incidents where pilot incapacitation was cited as the cause. (Though in 39 incidents, it was considered a possible cause then discarded.)
- A 2004 study published by the FAA's Office of Aerospace Medicine cited a separate report concluding that the likelihood of in-flight incapacitation to be 0.074 percent.
While some of the rationales put forward by the original petitioner is certainly debatable, it's probably a move that most of us can get behind. Regardless of where one comes down on the issue, it is certainly something that affects us all. So I encourage all pilots to go and take a look at the original petition at the government regulations site and leave your comments. (If the link doesn't work for some reason, visit www.regulations.gov and enter docket number FAA-2009-0481.) Check the "public submissions" box to see all the comments left on this petition so far.