Pilots Guide to BasicMed

medical
Third-class medical reform may eliminate the need to visit an AME.

If you’ve held a valid medical certificate at any point after July 14, 2006, you may never have to see an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) again under the new BasicMed rule effective May 1, 2017.

And for those just getting started, you may be able to complete just one AME medical exam at the beginning of your flying and then use the simplified basic med process as long as your flying can be accomplished with third class privileges.

Pilot in airplane
3rd class medical reform includes recreational or personal flying

Third class medical flying can be thought of as recreational or personal flying – generally flight training and all types of flying short of commercial operations including day and night VFR operations and even IFR flying.  When flying under basic med, there is a maximum number of passengers that may be carried – five (5) – and the aircraft operated is limited to six seats and may not be certified for more than 6,000 lbs.  Pilots are also altitude restricted to 18,000 feet MSL (no Class A operations) and a speed limit of 250 knots.

Third-class medical reform does not affect those already flying sport aircraft with a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third-class medical.  You may continue flying light-sport aircraft.

doctor talking to her male patient at office
Pilots need to visit a physician at least every four years

As part of the new guidance, pilots flying under BasicMed need to visit their primary care physician (or any state-licensed physician) at least once every four years and provide an FAA checklist of issues to be discussed during the visit.  Both the pilot and physician need to sign the checklist stating that the items have been completed.  A record of the required visit should be noted in the pilot’s logbook and pilots should save their checklist.  There is no additional need to report or file anything directly with FAA.

The required checklist is provided in two parts.  There are questions to be answered by the pilot in advance of the exam and a list of items for the physician to include as part of the exam which are typical of items found in any routine physical.  The questions include a short medical history and list of current medications and, as one might expect, information about whether the pilot has had a medical denied, suspended or revoked.

Pilots are required to complete an online training course in aeromedical factors every two years.  The course is available free from AOPA.  A copy of the course completion certificate should be saved and a notation of the training made in the pilot’s logbook.

Perhaps the greatest financial and regulatory relief of the reform movement comes to those with special issuance medicals.  Special issuance medicals are an option for pilots with certain medical conditions that are specifically disqualifying.  Once FAA reviews the history and circumstances, the pilot may be cleared to fly under the special issuance authorization.

If you currently hold a special issuance third-class medical, or have held one after July 14, 2006, and do not suffer one of the specific cardiac, neurological, or mental health conditions identified as exceptions, you will never again be required to go through the special issuance process.

An important note is that third-class medical reform does not alleviate the need for pilots to continually self-certify when it comes to being fit for flight.  This includes consideration for any medications that may affect physical or cognitive abilities.  While it would make sense that a primary care physician would be in a better position to assess one’s overall health than the snapshot that takes place during the traditional AME exam, the process also depends on an honest and free exchange with your doctor.

BasicMed Summary – what you need to fly

  • Hold a U.S. driver’s license.
  • Hold or have held a medical certificate issued by the FAA at any point after July 14, 2006.
  • Answer the health questions on the Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC) and complete your examination by any physician – required every 4 years.
  • Take the online medical education course (required every 2 years) and complete the attestations/consent to the National Driver Register (NDR) check. Keep the course completion document.
  • Go fly!

Operational Restrictions under BasicMed:

  • No more than five passengers
  • Operate within the United States, at less than 18,000 feet MSL, not exceeding 250 knots.
  • Can’t operate for compensation or hire
  • Accepted in the Bahamas

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It was his first airplane trip at age seven that made Eric decide to become a pilot. "While boarding the airplane, a flight attendant noticed my interest in the flight deck and urged me to go talk to the pilot. I give a lot of credit to that pilot for my career choice." He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and went on to an airline career. Eric now heads Sporty’s flight school and directs the University of Cincinnati’s Professional Pilot Training Program. In addition, Eric serves as a Captain in Sporty’s corporate flight department.

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