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.