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May 3, 2014

Medical Reform: IFR vs. VFR Battle Rages

The details of the FAA proposal controversial.
By Robert Goyer / Published: Apr 29, 2014
Mark Baker at the AOPA Regional Fly-In
The deck was loaded. Let me explain.
AOPA president Mark Baker was on the stage in San Marcos, Texas, at the first-ever AOPA regional fly-in and was discussing the fact that IFR flying was prohibited in the FAA’s proposed medical certification reform, referred to by many as the “drivers license” medical. The issue was one that few were aware of until Flying brought it to the fore with an editorial in the March issue. Our point was that IFR flying is not only not an additional hazard that should be prohibited in the news rules but that including it in the regs would make flying safer, not more dangerous.

In a private meeting Mark Baker told me that he agreed. The issue, he said, was in getting the new regs moving, the fear being that changes to it might derail it altogether, and the changes were too important to risk that. He has a great point, and far as the issue goes, he doesn’t need convincing. He’s just in a position where he wants to get as much done as he can. I can appreciate that.
So when Baker during his Town Hall meeting that wrapped up the event discussed the issue with a few hundred AOPA members, he started by asking how many in attendance were IFR Pilots.
A sea of hands went up, around three-quarters of those at the talk, a percentage far greater than at any AOPA event I’d been to before.
As I said, the deck was loaded. The weather in San Marcos had been hovering between VFR and IFR all morning, a condition that would require some serious scud running among the towers if someone were to try it. The pilots at the meeting had all filed and flown the ILS.
I ask, which was the safer approach?
It’s rhetorical. I know it, you know it, Mark Baker knows. Let’s let the FAA and Congress know it too. IFR is not some kind of daredevil activity. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. Forcing someone to fly VFR in marginal weather just because they’ve opted to go with self-medical certification instead of the FAA’s cumbersome and risky process makes no sense. Everyone in San Marcos on Saturday, Mark Baker included, understood that implicitly.



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