Bring On BasicMed What the FAA’s New Regulatory Relief Rule Means for You

by Brad Zeigler, FAA Aviation Safety Analyst

For thousands of general aviation (GA) pilots, May Day, a.k.a. May 1, signified much more than a day of seasonal celebration. May 1, 2017 marked the start of BasicMed, the medical certificate relief that allows GA pilots, exercising private pilot privileges, to fly powered aircraft as pilot in command (PIC) without holding an FAA-issued medical certificate.

BasicMed originated from Congress and is the FAA program implementing provisions of section 2307 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (FESSA).

BasicMed in a Nutshell

BasicMed permits certain pilots, flying certain aircraft, to conduct certain operations, without holding a current medical certificate. It is an alternative to the third class medical certificate; however, it is not a replacement of the third class certificate, and it is not a “fourth class” certificate. BasicMed is simply another means of being able to establish medical eligibility in order to act as PIC of a powered aircraft in certain circumstances. Let’s take a closer look at the details.

Are you Eligible for BasicMed?

Here are the items that you’ll need to qualify for BasicMed:

Driver’s License. You must hold a current and valid U.S. driver’s license and have it in your personal possession when operating under BasicMed. While you might use an official passport to serve as a valid form of photo identification under section 61.3(a)(2), it may not be used in lieu of a driver’s license to operate under BasicMed. An international driver’s license or a foreign driver’s license does not suffice either. Any restrictions on your driver’s license, such as corrective lenses or “daylight driving only” will also apply under BasicMed.

At least one Medical Certificate. You must have held a valid FAA medical certificate at any point after July 14, 2006. If that medical certificate was associated with special issuance, the expiration of the special issuance must be after July 14, 2006. Remember, if you are operating under BasicMed, your most recent medical certificate must not have been suspended or revoked, any special issuances must not have been withdrawn, and if you’ve since applied for another medical certificate, that completed application cannot have been denied.

One Special Issuance. BasicMed contains several provisions that require specific actions for individuals who have ever had certain mental, cardiac, or neurological health conditions. If you have had one of those conditions, you must obtain a medical certificate with authorization for special issuance. You are required to obtain only one special issuance medical certificate for each condition in order to operate under BasicMed. If you presently have, or are newly diagnosed with, a cardiovascular, neurological, or mental health condition described in section 68.9, you may not use BasicMed until you have been found eligible for special issuance of a medical certificate. The list of special conditions from section 68.9 is listed on the BasicMed website,

Once you’ve determined your eligibility, here are the steps you’ll need to take to fly under BasicMed

Step 1: See Any State-Licensed Physician

Before you go to your appointment with a state-licensed physician of your choosing (and preferably one who’s familiar with your health history), you must first complete your portion of FAA Form 8700-2, Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC). If the section you’re required to fill out looks familiar, it should — it’s derived from a previous version of FAA Form 8500-8, the medical certificate application form that now exists in MedXPress.

Section 2 of the form requires you to answer questions about your medical history. Your physician will review your responses to those questions and address any medical issues or medications taken, as they apply to operating an aircraft or motor vehicle.

In addition to reviewing your responses in section 2, your physician will conduct a medical examination of the items listed in section 3. These are similar items that an Aviation Medical Examiner would review for your third-class medical exam.

If your physician is satisfied that you present no medical conditions that would interfere with your ability to safely operate an aircraft, he or she will sign the form and complete the identifying information, including his or her state license number. Legibility is key here as you will need this information in order to print your medical education course completion certificate. Once the CMEC is completed, store it in your logbook. In order to act as PIC under BasicMed, you must have completed a medical examination in the preceding 48 months.

The FAA acknowledges that your CMEC contains private medical information, and a representative of the FAA will never ask to see the form unless there is an incident or investigation that warrants inspection of the document.

Step 2: Take the BasicMed Online Medical Course

The FAA’s BasicMed website contains a list of each approved medical education course provider for BasicMed. The courses contain several topics regarding fitness for flight, including:

  • medical self-assessments;
  • warning signs of potential serious medical conditions;
  • risk mitigation strategies for medical conditions;
  • awareness of impairment from over-the-counter and prescription drug medications; and
  • regular medical checkups.

Once you complete the course, you will be required to electronically certify that you allow the FAA to access your driving records, that you’re being actively treated for any medical condition that affects your ability to fly, that you’ve completed the CMEC, and that you understand your obligations under section 61.53 regarding operation of an aircraft during a medical deficiency.

Once you complete the course and make the required certifications, you will be required to enter information about yourself and the physician who completed the CMEC (be sure that the personal information you enter matches exactly what’s on your pilot certificate). This information is transmitted to the FAA, and you will be provided with a course completion certificate to retain in your logbook. In order to act as PIC under BasicMed, you must have completed the online medical course within the preceding 24 calendar months.

Step 3: Fly A BasicMed Covered Aircraft

Under BasicMed, you may fly any aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 6,000 pounds or less, and certified to carry not more than six occupants. The aircraft may be type-certificated, or certified under an experimental airworthiness certificate. BasicMed makes no distinction on the number, type, or horsepower of engines, but you must adhere to the operational limitations described below.

Step 4: Know Your BasicMed Operating Limits

While BasicMed permits flights of any distance or duration, any time of the day, under visual or instrument flight rules, there are a few operational limitations that you need to be aware of. Congress established that these limitations apply to the entire flight, so take note if you routinely trade off PIC responsibilities with another pilot during a flight. Even if the pilot you are flying with holds a valid medical certificate and has the ability to operate beyond the constraints of BasicMed, you cannot act as PIC at any time during that flight if those limitations are exceeded, even if the other pilot is acting as PIC during that portion of the flight.

Max Passengers (five). You may not fly with more than five passengers, regardless of the number of seats.

U.S. Airspace. Because BasicMed is not recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as meeting internationally-agreed medical standards, you may not operate under BasicMed outside the United States unless you are authorized by the country in which the flight is conducted.

Max Altitude. While BasicMed doesn’t prescribe a limitation on the service ceiling of the aircraft you are flying, you may not fly above 18,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) while operating under BasicMed. This is an important flight planning consideration if you typically fly over high terrain, weather, or just want to avoid turbulence at lower altitudes.

Max Airspeed. If you fly a fast plane, you may need to throttle back so you can remain at or below 250 knots indicated airspeed. This is indicated airspeed, so your true airspeed or groundspeed may be higher than 250 knots.

No Compensation or Hire. Just as is the case when exercising your private pilot privileges under a third-class medical certificate, you may not operate under BasicMed for compensation or for hire. The standard exceptions of section 61.113(b) still apply to BasicMed, so you may continue to split the pro-rata share of the operating expenses with your passengers or receive reimbursement for search and location efforts. Flight instructors take note: The FAA considers the compensation flight instructors receive to be for teaching, not piloting the aircraft. As such, flight instructors may receive compensation for instructing while operating under BasicMed.

Step 5: Know Your Fitness to Fly

Assessing your medical readiness for flight should not be limited to once every 1,461 days. We should be evaluating ourselves each and every time we fly. Just as we preflight the aircraft we’re about to fly, we should be conducting a thorough preflight on ourselves to determine if there are any medical conditions that could prevent us from safely conducting the flight. Whether you fly under BasicMed or not, section 61.53 prohibits you from acting as PIC if you know, or have reason to know, of any medical condition that would make you unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner.

The BasicMed online training courses provide education and resources on how to conduct this evaluation. For this reason alone, the course is worth taking, even if you don’t plan to operate under BasicMed.

Step 6: Know Your Limitations

The FAA enacted BasicMed exactly as Congress prescribed. As such, there are a few things worth noting.

Dates. Note that the comprehensive medical exam must be completed in the preceding 48 months. That is exactly 1,461 days prior to the day of the flight. On the other hand, the online medical course must be completed 24 calendar months prior to acting as PIC under BasicMed. Calendar months means that if your course was completed on May 10, 2017, you have until May 31, 2019, before you must take it again in order to continuously act as PIC under BasicMed.

Safety Pilots. You may not act as a safety pilot under BasicMed unless you also agree to act as the PIC. A safety pilot, by virtue of being a required crewmember, is required to hold a medical certificate. Because BasicMed only applies to pilots acting as PIC, a safety pilot who is not PIC must hold a valid medical certificate, and may not operate under BasicMed. This also applies to flight instructors if they are providing instrument instruction to a pilot who has agreed to act as PIC. The moment the pilot receiving instruction puts on a view-limiting device, the flight instructor has become the safety pilot, and must hold a valid medical certificate unless the flight instructor agrees to act as PIC.

Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs). Congress did not extend the relief provided by BasicMed to DPEs, so in accordance with section 61.23(a)(3)(iv), DPEs must hold at least a third-class medical certificate in order to perform the duties of an examiner.

Aircraft Certificated to carry more than six occupants. Certain aircraft, such as variants of the Piper PA-32 and PA-34, and other makes/models do not qualify under BasicMed because they are certificated to carry more than six occupants, even if they only have six seats installed. In order to determine the number of occupants your aircraft is certificated to carry, refer to your aircraft’s type certificate data sheet, found on the FAA public website.

The FAA expects the regulatory relief offered with the BasicMed rule to be a major success for the GA community. In fact, as of this writing, more than 5,000 pilots have already completed the online course and submitted their BasicMed medical exam records. The new rule is also consistent with the FAA’s shift towards risk-based regulation and decision making, shifting responsibility from the agency to the airman, and his or her physician, to collaboratively assess fitness for flight. This helps provide a winning combination for general aviation: keeping pilots safe and flying affordable.

If you have any questions or comments about the FAA’s BasicMed rule, please contact us at You can also find answers to frequently asked questions at

Brad C. Zeigler is an aviation safety analyst with the General Aviation and Commercial Division. He is also an Airline Transport Pilot, Certificated Flight Instructor, and frequent Cessna 182 flyer around the Washington, D.C., area.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
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