[NOTE: Since its original printing in the May 2017 issue of Plane & Pilot, this article has been edited to reflect recent FAA updates.]
After a long wait and quite a lot of work, BasicMed is here. As of May 1, the new regulations regarding pilot medical certification are in effect. BasicMed isn’t for everyone, however. Flying under the new rules isn’t as simple as deciding you’re fit and taking your driver’s license with you to the airport. There’s a list of required examinations, limitations and disqualifying conditions that might make flying with a traditional medical a better option, especially for those who already have one. That said, how exactly does a pilot who wants to fly under the new rules go about doing so?
What You Need
First, you need at least a third class medical. It doesn’t have to be current. As long as your most recent medical wasn’t denied, revoked, suspended or withdrawn, any medical that was valid after July 15, 2006 qualifies. Watch out for the wording on that one—July 15, 2006 doesn’t count. “After” means it has to be 7/16/06 or later.
If you’ve never gotten an FAA medical certificate, you’ll still need to get one the old-fashioned way. If your most recent certificate was suspended, even if it was later reinstated, you must get a new medical certificate before you can fly under BasicMed. To be clear: BasicMed is not an option if your last medical certificate was ever invalid for any reason other than being past its expiration date.
You’ll also need a comprehensive medical exam and to complete a medical education course—more on those next. A current, valid U.S. driver’s license is necessary and, in addition, you have to consent to a National Driver Register check.
Assuming your medical certification is good to go, you still need to get checked over, though it no longer needs to be with an AME. A comprehensive medical examination by any state-licensed physician familiar with your health history qualifies. The better news: To fly under BasicMed, you’ll only need a checkup every 48 months. A caveat—as with most regulations, there are plenty of them—examination for an FAA medical certificate does not count as a comprehensive medical exam. Even if you passed your 1st Class Medical exam yesterday, you’ll need to either have a separate exam done or get the AME to do a concurrent exam to fly under BasicMed.
To qualify a physical as a comprehensive medical exam, the FAA has a Comprehensive Medical Exam Checklist (CMEC) that you’ll need to fill out and bring with you to your appointment. Your doctor will go over your CMEC, discuss any potential concerns with you, and, if all is well, sign off that you’re fit to fly. This also acts as you own attestation that, as far as you’re aware, you don’t have any disqualifying conditions.
Once your CMEC is complete, keep a copy somewhere you can get to it. Like your logbook, you’ll need to be able to produce it should the FAA ask. It doesn’t have to be the original as long as the copy is complete and legible.
As with regular medical certificates, there are certain mental health, neurological and cardiovascular conditions that are disqualifying. If you have one of these conditions, even if your medical expired before you were diagnosed, or one develops, you’ll have to get a special issuance medical certificate (and then a comprehensive medical exam) before you can fly under BasicMed rules. Specific disqualifying conditions are covered in detail in the new 14 CFR 68.
The CMEC is available on the FAA BasicMed webpage.
Medical Education Course
Every 24 months, you’ll need to complete an FAA-approved free online aeromedical education course. You’ll need to get your medical exam done first, since the medical education course documentation requires that you enter the name and license number of the physician who completed your exam. Once finished, you’ll get a certificate of completion. Like the CMEC, you need to keep an accurate, legible copy available, though neither has to come with you when you fly. If you lose either one, you can’t go flying under BasicMed.
A link to the FAA approved AOPA Medical Education Course is also available on the FAA BasicMed webpage.
What You Can (Mostly Can’t) Do Under BasicMed
The limitations for flying under BasicMed really aren’t too bad. You can’t carry more than five passengers or operate a plane that can carry more than six occupants. You can fly day and night under VFR or IFR, as certificated/rated. Speed is limited to 250 kts and you also can’t fly above 18,000 feet MSL. Any plane you fly must weigh 6,000 pounds or less max certificated takeoff weight.
You also can’t operate a flight for compensation or hire. That doesn’t, surprisingly, count for a CFI, in this case. The FAA has specifically said that a CFI is acting as PIC using their private pilot privileges, but receiving compensation via their CFI privileges and therefore qualifies to fly under BasicMed. You can also take any FAA practical exams under BasicMed for the same reason—according to the FAA, you’re only exercising your private pilot privileges.
For The Latest Updates
The Comprehensive Medical Exam Checklist (CMEC), Medical Education Course, and additional information about BasicMed are now available on the FAA BasicMed webpage. We will also continue post any updates on our website and via our eNewsletter.