AOPA Australia CEO Ben Morgan issued an opinion paper yesterday reviving the association's call for self-certified medical standards for private general aviation pilots.
AOPA has maintained for several years that pilots of GA aircraft should be subject to the same medical standards as pilots of RAAus-registered aircraft where the operation is the same.
Holders of Recreational Pilot Certificates need only declare that they are fit enough to drive a car to exercise the privileges of their RPC, where as PPL holders have to undergo a medical examination by a CASA Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) before they can fly.
"The issue of self-certification pilot medicals frustrates and angers a great many in the RPL/PPL pilot community, and rightfully so," Morgan said. "Self-certification pilot medicals have been in use for several decades by RAAus RPC holders – all approved by CASA.
"On one hand CASA says it’s perfectly safe for an RAAus RPC holder to fly using a self-certification pilot medical, then looks across to RPL/PPL holders, who in many cases are flying the same aircraft from the same airfields in the same airspace, and declaring them unsafe and prohibiting them from accessing the medical standard.
"You can be excused if you’re feeling confused, because we all are. What is good for the goose is clearly no good for the gander. Sadly, it has left many wondering as to what has happened to the much touted ‘risk based, proportionate and just regulation approach’ promised by past CASA Directors of Aviation Safety.
"I fear it has all been marketing and slogans."
Self-certified medicals for PPLs has been one of AOPA Australia's keystone platforms for many years.
In November 2017, CASA introduced the Basic Class 2 medical, which applied to VFR-only PPLs flying by day and required only that the holder pass a medical equivalent to the Austroads Commercial standard, assessed by a general practitiioner rather than a DAME.
AOPA initially applauded the move, with Morgan saying: "The new Basic Class 2 medical will enable thousands to return to flying and will bring an end to decades of contention between CASA AVMED and the pilot community. This reform will serve to help enable general aviation revitalisation and signals that our national aviation safety regulator is listening and responding.
"I think this is a thundering success for our industry."
By June the following year, both AOPA and the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA) were beginning to agitate for self-certification once again, but CASA has proven resistant to matching the two medical systems. In September 2018, AOPA called on CASA to release the risk assessment that showed it would be dangerous for PPLs to operate under self-certification. No answer was ever given
"And, it’s not just the industry which is being refused an answer either," Morgan said yesterday. "I have watched on as successive CASA representatives have cleverly testified before federal Senate inquiries and hearings, swearing under oath to provide truthful answers, but all the while dancing around the issue and never once giving a straight answer.
"It is my view that CASA cannot answer the question, not because it does not know the answer, but because the answer itself would be to admit that self-certification pilot medicals are being wrongfully held hostage and used by the regulator to drive pilots into Part 149 self-administration.
"CASA’s current regulatory stance unjustly forces Australian pilots to submit to paying a private company for access to a medical standard, that should be rightfully and openly available to all Australians who hold a pilot license – period.
Morgan said that AOPA Australia is determined to achieve a "positive outcome" for PPLs.