It’s done! President Obama has signed the FAA extension, and it will now be law. It’s important to note that while the extension only keeps the FAA funded through September of 2017, the medical reforms included in the bill are permanent. Pilots will be able to fly under these new rules in one years time, or once the FAA has completed their rulemaking regarding the changes, whichever comes first. The FAA has so far not commented on when it will begin the rulemaking process, or what form that process might take.
Just two days after the House passed identical legislation, the Senate has passed the FAA Extension (officially known as the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016), by a vote of 84 – 9. The bill is now going to be put before the president for his signature.
According to AOPA President Mark Baker, “This is the most significant legislative victory for general aviation in decades. These reforms will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of pilots from an outdated, costly, and unnecessarily burdensome system. This legislation will strengthen the private pilot-private physician relationship and improve awareness of medical issues throughout our community. It will help pilots save time, money, and frustration.”
Representatives from EAA and NATA shared Baker’s sentiment and praised the bipartisan support for the measure. And though GAMA appreciates the third class medical reform passed as part of the extension, they view it as a missed opportunity, saying that “it fails to address the broader certification and regulatory changes needed to improve safety, provide more consistency in regulatory interpretation, and keep the U.S. aviation industry competitive in the global economy.”
President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law before the July 15 deadline when current funding extension for the FAA expires.
In a joint statement released by the House and Senate leaders, they have detailed a 14-month funding extension for the FAA. The extension would take effect when the FAA’s current authorization ends on July 15th, and would run through the end of the fiscal year in 2017, or September 30th. Included with the FAA Extension will be third-class medical reform, long fought for by general aviation groups such as AOPA and EAA.
AOPA President Mark Baker had this to say about the extension, “Including third class medical reform in this package is great news for general aviation and we’re very pleased that the House has included it as part of the FAA extension. We appreciate the efforts of general aviation advocates in both the House and Senate. This is a vital issue for the general aviation community, and it’s long past time to get it done.”
The House and Senate expect to pass the legislation and send it to the President to be signed into law before Congress adjourns next week. After the bill is signed into law, the FAA would then have one year to develop and enact regulations before the proposed third class medical reforms go into effect.
Jack Pelton, the CEO and chairman of EAA, had this to say, “As we mentioned often at the beginning of this effort, bringing change through legislation is not quick or easy. We have fought every day to overcome significant challenges in Congress and will continue to do so. This is a major step forward in changing the landscape of medical certification for recreational and personal flying. It provides relief for pilots while maintaining safety – and in some cases, enhancing it.”
For a summary of the FAA Extension, click here. For the full text of the extension, click here. And for more details on the proposed third class medical reforms, and answers to many of the common questions, check out AOPA’s FAQ on the topic.