EAA Government Advocacy
MedXPress Mandate - Paper forms for flight physicals to disappear October 1
The traditional paper form, FAA Form 8500-8, completed by many pilots prior to their airman medical exam will vanish on October 1, as the FAA moves exclusively to its online MedXPress system for these applications.
Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Fred Tilton announced the change in the Federal Air Surgeon’s Medical Bulletin in January. The MedXPress system was introduced in 2007, but it was not required that pilots and aviation medical examiners (AMEs) use it. Dr. Tilton said, “The paper system allows for too many errors, leads to storage problems, and creates security risks.” The FAA will reportedly save an estimated $150,000 per year by eliminating the paper forms.
Many AMEs already use the MedXPress system for pilots who apply or renew their medical certification. The coming change is that all pilots who apply for medical certification or schedule their regular flight physical after October 1 will be required to use the online system.
“The single most important tip for pilots when using MedXPress is to make sure they print out a copy of the medical information they submitted and have it available to their AME at the time of the exam,” said Dr. Greg Pinnell, a member of the EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council, who hosted a February webinar on the topic.
“If pilots have any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or medication, it is vital to discuss it with their AME prior to the exam to ensure there are no ‘showstoppers’ that could lead to a denial and threaten the potential to fly LSA.”
Pilot’s Bill of Rights introduced in House
Longtime EAA member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), along with Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois), jointly introduced the House version of the “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” that would provide aviators with more protection and access to information during FAA enforcement proceedings.
The bill (H.R. 3816) is a companion bill to the U.S. Senate version (S. 1335) introduced last July by EAA member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma). That Senate bill, which was outlined to aviators by Sen. Inhofe last summer at EAA AirVenture 2011, already has 60 co-sponsors. EAA and other GA groups support this proposal.
The House measure contains four key elements:
- It provides more protection and access to information during FAA enforcement proceedings.
- It requires the FAA to initiate a notice to airmen (NOTAM) improvement program.
- It requires that flight service station briefings and other air traffic services provided by any government contractor be available through a Freedom of Information Act request.
- It provides a review of the FAA medical certification process and forms, with a goal of greater clarity to reduce instances of misinterpretation.
“Having companion bills introduced in both houses of Congress is a major step forward in advancing this bipartisan legislation that will benefit aviators,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations, who assisted in crafting the original legislation. “We encourage EAA members to contact their congressional representatives and urge them to co-sponsor this bipartisan measure.”
User Fees: Good News, Bad News
The possibility of GA user fees just won’t go away, despite more than a decade of congressional opposition from both parties and overwhelming negative responses from the aviation community. Already in early 2012 we have heard good news and bad news on the subject.
First the good news: The final language in the first full FAA reauthorization bill in five years passed both houses of Congress in early February and was signed by President Obama on February 14. It contains no provision for user fees and no increase in the aviation fuel tax, which is GA’s fair contribution to FAA’s funding. The reauthorization bill was a goal of EAA’s advocacy efforts, as it stabilizes the agency’s funding and planning through 2015 and allows major initiatives such as NextGen and airport improvements to move forward.
Now for the bad news: The Obama administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget includes a $100-per-flight user fee for selected GA aircraft flying within controlled airspace. While the budget proposal would exempt all piston aircraft, military aircraft, public aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights, the plan would create additional financial burdens for GA and require new bureaucracy to administer user fee collection. It also opens the door to an eventual expansion of user fees to other private aircraft and GA operations.
EAA and fellow GA groups responded immediately to the budget proposal. The leadership of GA caucuses in the House and Senate have been alerted to the need to again oppose the user fee plan. User fees is an issue where the concept of “stronger together” is essential. It is the unified strength of aviators and their representative groups such as EAA, AOPA, and others fighting a specific proposal when it emerges in Washington that will prevail.
Why a New Approach to Small Aircraft Certification is needed
You know that sinking feeling in your stomach when the cost of a new airplane part, an overhaul, or a factory-new airplane is put before your eyes. It is often accompanied by a gasp as the reality of the number settles into your head. So have you ever asked yourself, “Why does a new wheelpant cost thousands of dollars?” or “Why does a new four-place, entry-level airplane cost hundreds of thousands of dollars?” There are several answers to these questions, but undoubtedly at the top of the list is the cost of certification.
Our current system of certification for small aircraft evolved over decades. It is cumbersome and restrictive, and above all else it does not encourage innovation that is both cost-effective and safety-enhancing. On the contrary, it encourages and rewards thinking that is “inside the box” and done “because we have always done it this way.” It is time for a new approach.
I am a participating member of the recently formed aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) for Part 23. The ARC’s task is to rethink the aircraft certification process to determine how it might be structured to enhance the incorporation of modern safety systems and reduce the cost of certification. The ultimate deliverable has been stated by John Colomy, deputy director of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate, as “an increase of safety twofold and a reduction in deliverable costs by 50 percent.” He added, “This will be a revolution in aircraft certification, with a clear, easy-to-follow path that takes months, not years.” The current time table is for the ARC to finish its recommendations by February 2013.
These are tall orders, but if aviation is to be safer than ever before and prosperous with growth, we must achieve these goals. The future depends on it, and I can tell you it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to the success of this ARC. Exciting times indeed!
EAA's Government Relations department works to preserve the freedom of flight and reduce the regulatory barriers affecting affordability and access to EAA members’ participation in aviation. Protecting the freedom to fly is the foundation on which all of the organization’s advocacy initiatives are built. EAA fights to preserve this freedom by providing clear solutions and practical alternatives backed by hard work and dedication. EAA’s 55-year history of success is a testament to that philosophy.