BasicMed: Transitioning From 3rd Class FAA Medical To BasicMed

BasicMed: Transitioning From 3rd Class FAA Medical To BasicMed

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Jackson Barnett

Principal Attorney

There are events in life where disclosing negative events such as a DUI or medical condition could cause irreparable harm to your investment in your ability to fly as a general aviation pilot.

However, what if you didn’t absolutely have to disclose information regarding those events? Perhaps you wouldn’t approach your immediate next steps from a place of panic and inadvertently put yourself at increased risk of a lengthy medical certificate renewal process.

That’s the domino effect we’d like to help you avoid at Barnett Law Offices and one of the ways we may be able to do so is by utilizing tools you might not be fully aware of.

One of those key tools is BasicMed, a piece of legislation that may protect general aviation pilots who understand how to leverage its essential components and navigate its complexities with sound legal assistance from an aviation attorney.

On July 15, 2016, Congress passed legislation to extend the FAA’s funding. This legislation, FAA Extension, Safety, Security Act of 2016 (FESSA) includes relief from holding an FAA medical certificate for certain pilots. This relief is called BasicMed.

Not long ago, Congress passed the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 (FESSA). This Act states that certain pilots that qualify for BasicMed can fly powered aircraft without holding an FAA medical certificate as long as they meet specific requirements.


Is BasicMed A Substitute For Holding A Third-Class Medical Certificate?

In a word: No. This can be one of the more confusing areas for pilots to understand, as BasicMed enables general aviation pilots to fly an aircraft without a current medical certificate, provided certain criteria are met.

If you have never held an FAA-issued medical certificate, you are not eligible to fly under BasicMed.  

However, while you may fly an aircraft with BasicMed, you can’t forego having a third-class medical certificate entirely either. A Third-Class (or higher) medical certificate paves the way for you to qualify for BasicMed in the first place, provided you can pass the BasicMed comprehensive medical exam.

How is flying without a medical certificate possible? What do you need to know to qualify for BasicMed? What are its limitations?


Top Known Conditions In BasicMed Pilots

We’ve highlighted a couple of instances in this article where qualifying for BasicMed would make a great deal of sense, but as you can see from the list below, selected known conditions outlined by the FAA, alcohol-related offenses or similar are not the only ones associated with applying for BasicMed.

  1. Coronary Artery Disease
  2. Diabetes Treated With Meds (Not Insulin)
  3. Sleep Apnea
  4. Alcohol-Related Offenses
  5. Atrial Fibrillation
  6. Head Trauma, Coma (30-Minutes Or More)
  7. Stroke and Related Conditions
  8. Diabetes Treated With Insulin
  9. Pacemaker, 2/1/2019

There are also a number of different medical conditions for which pilots have turned to BasicMed. For all of these conditions and more, knowing what you must disclose and what you do not have to disclose can help protect you from unnecessary consequences. That’s where Barnett Law Offices can be an ideal legal partner.

Some of these areas of aviation law can be murky waters for pilots to see the answers to right away – and the associated medical forms don’t necessarily help in that regard either – which can put pilots who don’t fully understand the rules of BasicMed in a very vulnerable position.

That’s why working with an experienced aviation attorney can help.

Safety assurance is a shared responsibility, and it requires a lot more than just following the letter of the regulations. Medical self-certification is expected of all pilots, but those of us using BasicMed have the same obligation to take our risk manage­ment responsibilities seriously and achieve the same safety stan­dard we have enjoyed when using a third-class medical or flying as Sport Pilots.

FAA Safety Briefing, July/August 2017


What Are The Criteria for an Airman to Obtain BasicMed Certification?

  1. A Third-Class medical certificate or special issuance medical certificate held any time after July 14, 2006.  If you held a first class medical before 2006, that has downgraded to a third class, this may satisfy the requirement.

    If an airman holds an unrestricted medical certificate, either expired or current, and wants to transition to a BasicMed certificate, the first criteria to consider is whether any new health conditions have arisen since the First-, Second- or Third-Class medical certificate was issued.

    If any of the following conditions occur, the airman must disclose them to the FAA prior to the transition to BasicMed. These conditions will likely require an airman obtain a Special Issuance Authorization (SI) (link to BLO article on SI) from the FAA, and the airman must obtain a First-, Second- or Third-Class medical certificate with the SI before transitioning to BasicMed.

Conditions Requiring Disclosure To FAA Before Transitioning To BasicMed

Mental Health:

(i) Personality disorder severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts
(ii) Psychosis
(iii) Bipolar disorder
(iv) Substance dependence within the previous 2 years


(i) Epilepsy
(ii) Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause
(iii) A transient loss of control of nervous system functions without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause


(i) Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
(ii) Coronary heart disease that has required treatment
(iii) Cardiac valve replacement
(iv) Heart replacement

3.     Your most recent medical certificate has not been suspended at any time, revoked or Special Issuance Authorization withdrawn.

4.     Your most recent FAA medical application has not been denied.

5.     Complete an FAA-approved online BasicMed education course with completion certificate (every 24 months): Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) or The Mayo Clinic.

6.     Complete a Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC) found here.

7.     Exam with a state-licensed physician (preferably your regular treating physician) every 48 months.

8.     You will also need to attest to your health and consent to a National Driver Registry check.

Among other questions we frequently have for clients facing legal issues after a DUI or substance abuse case, our aviation attorneys at Barnett Law Offices will want to see that the treating physician has signed an Attestation Statement.

What is an Attestation Statement? The statement in writing from your physician that all items on the Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist have been thoroughly discussed with you. As part of this statement, the physician must certify that they are “not aware of any medical condition that, as presently treated, could interfere with the individual’s ability to safely operate an aircraft.”

BasicMed Vs. Third-Class Medical

Additional Restrictions

Aircraft and Operating Requirements under BasicMed

The Sky Is Not The Limit

Just because one obtains BasicMed doesn’t mean the airman has full authority to fly without several conditions being met first. BasicMed limitations extend to certain types of aircraft and operating restrictions.

As a BasicMed holder, you cannot:

  • Fly an aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of more than 6,000 lbs.
  • Have an aircraft authorized under federal law carry more than 6 occupants
  • Carry more than five passengers on your aircraft
  • Operate under BasicMed outside of the U.S.
  • Operate your aircraft outside of the U.S.
  • Fly above 18,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) – keep this in mind if your flight plan calls for you to fly over high terrain or in questionable weather.
  • Exceed 250 knots of true airspeed
  • Operate for compensation or for hire – if you are a flight instructor, you may receive compensation for teaching but not for piloting the aircraft.

More Than 66,000 Pilots Are Currently Flying Under BasicMed, Just Five Years After The Program Was Launched.

General Aviation News

Scenarios In Which An Airman Can Transition From A 3rd Class Medical To BasicMed

Example 1:

I had a heart attack in 2008 and the FAA issued me a special issuance, but I let it lapse. I have had no other medical problems. Can I use BasicMed?”

  • A: Yes. As long as you have had not had another heart attack or developed another new condition requiring going through the process for a special issuance identified in section 68.9, you may use BasicMed.

Example 2:

Airman received a MIP when they were 18 in the 1990s. Airman disclosed the MIP on their Third-Class medical application in January 2010. Airman holds Third-Class medical. Airman received a DUI arrest in November 2010. Airman did not renew medical certificate. Airman’s DL was not suspended or revoked. Airman received deferred adjudication on the DUI (it goes away after 1-year probation). Can airman use BasicMed?

  • A: The airman may need to disclose an alcohol education class, or other conditions of probation, but the airman is still eligible for BasicMed.

Let’s use a couple of common scenarios we frequently see in cases at Barnett Law to discuss how BasicMed works in a practical sense: DUI cases and Substance Abuse cases.

Example 3: BasicMed in a DUI Case

Ken is a general aviation pilot who has a very successful small business and, when he’s not running his company actively, he takes to the skies in his private jet. But recently, Ken hit a significant speed bump that could impact his love of flying indefinitely: He just experienced a DUI, making him extremely fearful of what’s to come from here, as he should be. Thanks to that charge, a lot about Ken’s life is about to change very quickly.

Namely, Ken’s DUI will ensure that he enters a stage accompanied by a variety of questions from the FAA. As anyone who has been under scrutiny from the FAA will tell you, it’s never an envious place to be. Depending on his blood-alcohol level, he’ll have to visit a psychiatrist for a substance abuse evaluation. He’ll undergo tests, engage in interviews, have a review of his records and other elements compiled in a multi-page report.

Despite this level of high scrutiny, BasicMed might be able to shield Ken from a great deal of exposure. For example, Ken holds a valid third-class medical certificate. Ken’s court case has been adjudicated to a reckless driving charge, with 1-year probation and no action taken on his driver’s license. If a physician certifies Ken as healthy, he may be able to apply for BasicMed and does not have to report the DUI issue.

Would Ken have been able to figure out the inroads to BasicMed on his own? Highly unlikely. But with an aviation law attorney from Barnett Law adding essential perspective, Ken has real options. The question is, can Ken transition to BasicMed and obtain a BasicMed without disclosing the DUI event. Ken will not have to disclose his DUI (he cannot renew his Third-Class medical without disclosing the DUI).

According To The FAA, Private Pilots Account For Nearly 68% Of All BasicMed Certifications.

When you Bring Aboard Barnett, you won’t have to try to understand all of the parameters of disclosure and BasicMed eligibility. That’s an excellent thing because Barnett Law Offices has the depth of knowledge on BasicMed to understand disclosure options and how to apply them to your specific case. His ability to ask the right questions at the right moment can give you a greater sense of calm about the situation you find yourself in and peace of mind that your future as a general aviation pilot may very well be preserved. 

Get more than the basics on BasicMed. Bring Aboard Barnett.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. You are responsible for ensuring your compliance with the BasicMed rules.