Is a special issuance really that special?

With the recent introduction of the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2, pilots who currently hold special issuance authorizations are asking, “Will I be able to self-certify if the legislation takes effect?”

The short answer is, “Probably.” However, a little background and history should qualify that response. Let’s go back to 2004, when the FAA established the driver’s license as the medical standard for self certification as it pertains to the operation of sport category aircraft. The language of the final rule included a last-minute provision that excluded pilots from being able to play under the rule if their “most recent” medical application had been denied, suspended, or revoked.  The language further qualified the understanding that a special issuance authorization must not have been “withdrawn or terminated.”

FAA special issuance authorization letters state—and I paraphrase—that the applicant is ineligible for medical certification under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, revised Part 67; however, the applicant has been granted a special issuance authorization under FAR 67.401. For purposes of self certification, the granting of a special issuance is not based upon an initial “denial” of a medical certificate. A special issuance medical is still a medical; it’s just issued under a different part of the regulations. As long as your special issuance authorization expires by time and is not withdrawn, terminated, or otherwise not renewed by the FAA on the basis of an adverse change in your medical status, you can allow the authorization to lapse and then legally exercise the privileges of a sport pilot, and hopefully under the expanded self-certification privileges of future legislative or regulatory changes.

Portrait of Gary Crump, AOPA's director of medical certification with a Cessna 182 Skylane at the National Aviation Community Center.
Frederick, MD USA
Gary Crump
Gary is the Director of AOPA’s Pilot Information Center Medical Certification Section and has spent the last 32 years assisting AOPA members. He is also a former Operating Room Technician, Professional Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician, and has been a pilot since 1973.
Topics: Training and Safety, Emergency, Training and Safety

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