Medications and new regulations: What it means for you

With the passage of the FAA reauthorization bill that includes third class medical reform, many things will change for general aviation pilots who fly recreationally in aircraft that fall within the exemption category. That includes about 90 percent of the general aviation fleet that don’t exceed 6,000 pounds gross weight, 250 knots airspeed, and altitudes higher than Flight Level 180.

The use of medications under the new regulations is a topic of many questions. For now, until the FAA publishes the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that may provide more details, medications that the FAA currently considers unacceptable for flying will continue to be disqualifying when new rules are implemented. The FAA reviews many medications to determine the possible adverse effects in the flight environment and their contraindications to safety.  Medications can affect people differently, and drugs that may seem fairly innocuous on the ground can cause noticeable side effects at even relatively low general aviation altitudes of 3,000 to 4,000 feet  msl. Although the FAA doesn’t publish a comprehensive list of medications, the online Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners includes a list of “Do Not Fly/Do Not Issue” medications for reference.

Another very good source for medications information can be found on our website, that explains the FAA policy regarding medications usage, and includes an extensive list of frequently prescribed medications and their status with the FAA. When the new regulations take effect in 2017, all of us who will be allowed to fly without the need for a current medical certificate will need to be well-versed on our responsibilities under the regulations, particularly 14 CFR 61.53 and 91.17 that address the use of medications while flying. 

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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.

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