Going Direct: BasicMed Has Real Advantages

BasicMed is here, and there’s real interest from pilots in using it. While it’s not everything we asked for, here’s how a lot of pilots can benefit.

I’ve been critical of the FAA’s new alternative medical certification process known as BasicMed, and for good reason. As far pilots’ rights are concerned, it’s not as good a process as the Sport Pilot “driver’s license” medical, which puts the power in the hands of the pilot to decide his or her medical fitness to fly.

Still, BasicMed has some huge advantages over both Sport Pilot and regular Third Class medical certification.

Flying under BasicMed is better than using the Sport Pilot driver’s license route for a few big reasons: You can fly bigger, faster and more complex planes and with more passengers, too under BasicMed. Under Sport Pilot, you’re limited to an LSA conforming plane and a single passenger, making it truly a sport flying alternative. With BasicMed you can fly very high performance planes (up to 250 kts), with up to six occupants and up to 18,000 feet, among other fairly liberal allowances.

While BasicMed does limit pilots from flying above 18,000 feet and faster than 250 knots (the two are closely linked for most planes), that still leaves open a wide array of very sophisticated single and twin-engine planes. BasicMed essentially keeps Daher TBM pilots from flying (the plane does its thing best above 20,000 feet, not below, but the allowances still leave open planes like the Beech Baron, the Piper M350 (Mirage) and just about everything below.

You can’t fly for hire under BasicMed, which makes sense because flying for hire typically requires a Second Class medical certificate, whereas BasicMed’s mandate is to offer an alternative to Third Class certification.

The advantages to BasicMed over the Third-Class medical are related to physical limitations more than operational ones. Pilots flying under BasicMed can have and be managing a wide range of health concerns that would typically be disqualifying under conventional Third-Class medical certification. These conditions include everything from heart issues to mental health challenges. Many pilots have complained that the disqualifying threshold for the Third-Class medical is far too strict, and we agree. For a lot of pilots, BasicMed solves that problem. True, there are requirements for having passed your most recent FAA physical, and to have passed one within the past 10 years, but this limitation will affect relatively few pilots.

BasicMed is not everything we might have wanted it to be. But what it does provide—the ability for pilots with safely managed medical and mental health conditions that might have been disqualifying under the Third-Class rules to keep flying—will make BasicMed worth the wait for a lot of pilots, and that’s one improvement we roundly applaud.

If you want more commentary on all things aviation, go to our Going Direct blog archive.

19 thoughts on “Going Direct: BasicMed Has Real Advantages

  1. I received my third class medical but it was a painful process. A senior AME deferred my application even though he had the authority to approve it. When it hit the FAA bureaucracy it took 3 months of trading paper to get my medical back. Basic Med for me from now on!

  2. My 3rd class ran out on 03/31/17. I went the month of April without a medical instead opting for Basic Med. This made sense to me due to the fact that I own and fly a Cessna 177 and have no desire to fly (or the ability) in the Flight Levels or for hire. The cost of my 3rd class was getting very costly due to medical conditions and FAA requirements of an annual medical and annual medical submissions from two other physicians. Basic Med was painless and frankly affordable. The Basic Med requirements will extend my flying for years to come. I recommend this option for other certificated pilots in my situation.

  3. What Doctor will sign off on it without psychiatric and neurological sign offs by other specialists, this is not a good deal as it will be just as expensive as 3 or 4 class 3’s. I wish everyone would quit trying to kiss aopa’ s an the faa’s tails. Not the great deal aopa is trying to sell.

  4. “BasicMed Has Real Advantages” to a select group of class 3 med. pilots. For that I am grateful but, let’s not be fooled into thinking that the government,s forcing of the FAA into this was a big favor to GA – it was anything but. We still toil because of the FAA’s faulure to continually work at their mission of promoting and seeing as many pilots can take to the air. The FAA is another in a long line of disgraceful government agencies……

  5. I am one of the people who have completed all BasicMed requirements and went flying yesterday to complete a Flight Review. For me BasicMed works very well as I can avoid several thousand of dollars annually for repetitive testing required of a Special Issuance. Yes it really was a choice of not flying due to the expensive 3rd Class – or – BasicMed. A clear win in my opinion.

  6. Basic Med does indeed allow more pilots to enjoy flying. At the same time it also allows for lower medical standards thus endangering passengers and the non flying public. At 77 I have no problem visiting a Aviation Medical Examiner and undergoing a medical examination to ensure I am physically capable of flying safely. I owe this procedure to any and all entrusting their life to me.

  7. We need to watch the wording on this. “Pilots flying under BasicMed can have and be managing a wide range of health concerns that would typically be disqualifying under conventional Third-Class medical certification.” While technically correct, that could get an “OMG – unsafe pilots can fly” reaction from the general public and media. The benefit is those folks will no longer have to endure the cost and bureaucratic torture of getting a special issuance.

  8. I know BasicMed is good for many, but I am disappointed. After many years of flying on 3rd class medical , I needed stents. While this issue is well under control and my cardiologist agrees that flying is ok, I am not (and have not been) willing to a “do or die ” with the FAA. To fly under BasicMed, I have to go thru the Special Issuance Process which evaluates me for everything, not just the stent issue as defined in the new BasicMed law. SportsPilot is the reasonable choice for me. A one time Special Issuance is one time too many, if I have a choice, and I do.

  9. Hardly a panacea. Helps out a few but puts a bureaucratic burden on Physicians some of which will have serious liability concerns. The cost of checkups, for most, will double. Not sure if I’ll bother with it.

  10. Every time I fly, whether under medical’s: Class 1, 2, 3, BasicMed, or Sport Pilot, I am
    responsible for certifying that I have no known health conditions that could cause an unsafe operation. BasicMed is the best method I have ever seen that provides the tools of insuring that the pilot is informed about his medical situation. Thanks to AOPA, EAA and to Congress
    for providing a process that works for me. I safely operated a Bonanza today under BasicMed.

  11. My last medical was in 2001. It cost me a fortune, and took several months. I’ve had no new disqualifying events since then, but given the wringer I was put through back then, I’m guessing that I’d have to gamble upwards of $30,000 that they MIGHT approve a 3rd class. 13 years from now, all those who squeaked in will be in the same condition I am, or worse, but they will have flown ten more years. Not many pilots affected? What if you are one of the ones who paid AOPA dues for 20 years, and AOPA promised that the reform I needed was just around the corner, only to be stabbed in the back? Yes, I’m just pretty darn bitter.

  12. One oddity I find under BasicMed is that you can be fly as a CFI but you cannot act as a safety pilot for IFR currency. That makes no sense to me.

  13. My 3rd-class expired in February. As I am currently taking 50 mg. Zoloft which grounded me, I’m opting for BasicMed. My PCP couldn’t believe it was disqualifying and stated he’d rather see me fly with it rather than without. Still, it has been the devil’s own time to convince him to do the checklist. His complaint was that he didn’t have the equipment to do an eye or hearing exam. It took some serious effort to get him to agree (my appointment is still a few weeks off). As I went to my opthamologist just a few days ago and got him to write a letter to my PCP, and also explained that 6-foot conversational hearing was the standard for a 3rd-class, he finally relented.

    We are at the “bleeding edge” and I think it will take some time before the docs get used to this new thing.

    As I expect to be off the Zoloft in the next several months, I may go back to a 3rd-class should I need to fly internationally. Or if I buy something to fly over 18,000 feet 🙂

  14. “Dave” wrote “One oddity I find under BasicMed is that you can be fly as a CFI but you cannot act as a safety pilot for IFR currency. That makes no sense to me.”

    That got my attention so I called the AOPA for clarification. I’m not an aviation lawyer, I don’t play one on TV and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. As best as I understood from that call was that only must act as PIC when acting as a safety pilot. If not PIC, one is a required crewmember which is NOT covered under BasicMed.

    The AOPA FAQ is here: https://www.aopa.org/advocacy/pilots/medical/third-class-airman-medical-reform

    Look for “Can I act as a safety pilot for flight in simulated instrument conditions under BasicMed if I do not hold a medical?”

  15. My family doctor will not sign the BasicMed checklist (no reason given and the legal counsel for the hospital system said he had no heartburn with the form). I contacted an AME/Pilot. Who better to know what might affect my ability to fly? His office said sure, come on in we are doing them. When I got there this a.m., the AME had talked to FAA in OKC and they said don’t do it, we don’t want to lose the “quality control”. So a pilot can go to a M.D. with dementia who doesn’t know a Cirrus from a Circus and he can sign off on the certificate, but an AME/Pilot can not take off his AME hat and sign as “just” an M.D.

    What do you expect from an organization that took 6 months to cut and paste the statute into “final rules.” A first year law student could do it in an afternoon. When I have nothing to do, I’m going to count the actual change in words between the 2. And then they slow walk the form so they could almost (as they first announced) prohibit even getting the exam until May 1.

    I didn’t know there was such a “swamp” in OKC.

  16. I’m going to take it to my BCBS PCP in Texas and see if he’ll sign it off along with an annual physical…I’m not an aviation attorney, but on the face of it, based on liability…I doubt he will…will report back.

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