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FAA Creates 4th Class Medical Certificate For Part 107 Pilots

Eye-Hand Coordination To Be A Major Factor

04.01.24 Aero-News April 1 Special Edition (Classic)

The FAA has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing a 4th Class medical certificate for Part 107 applicants.

Under the proposed rule, those wishing to operate drones would be required to pass a medical exam showing they are physically able to fly the aircraft, focusing on eye-hand coordination and cognitive abilities. A psychological examination would also be required as part of the process.

According to the NPRM, applicants would be required to demonstrate that they can quickly react to and avoid obstacles such as buildings, trees, birds and small children. "You never know when a small child can dart out in front of your drone," said Administrator Whitaker. "It will be a lot like the "friend or foe" exercises used by law enforcement in firearms training, except every person will need to be treated like someone to be avoided. If you hit even one, you'll fail."

Thumb and forefinger strength will also be tested to assure that proper control of the aircraft can be maintained.

Applicants will also be evaluated to determine that they will not operate their aircraft in an unsafe way, and that they understand the dangers of operating near airports. "The testing will include a series of questions that will focus in on the applicant's propensity to ignore, or stretch rules. For instance, cyclists who admit to routinely running through stop signs, or parents who think it's OK to give their kids a grape or two at the grocery store without paying for them, might be denied a medical certificate," Whitaker said.

The drone community had mixed reactions to the NPRM. A drone operator who wished to remain anonymous told Aero-News that the proposed rule was an overreach. "We're not all a bunch of wild-eyed outlaws, and one of the great things about flying drones is that we can experience some of the joys of flying without a lot of oppressive rules. Haven't they gone far enough?" the source said.

AUVSI said that it is evaluating the NPRM, but was open to working with the FAA to be sure the rule was not too onerous -- which did not thrill the drone community... nor surprise them.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics was also opposed to the NPRM, and said they planned to offer comments to the NPRM expressing their concerns. "We've tried to go along to get along, but if they include model airplane pilots in this rule, we'll fight it tooth and nail," the AMA said in a statement. "Our members have been flying model airplanes safely for decades without any such restrictions. There's no reason for them to lump us in with the drone pilots AGAIN!"

Manned aircraft pilots seemed to be generally supportive of the rule, however. One pilot who asked to remain anonymous sent an email to Aero-News saying "How hard can it be? You've seen the physical condition of many of the pilots who regularly climb into the cockpit of an airplane and take to the skies. Suck it up, buttercup."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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