This article was written by Murray Shaw, a GA pilot, who originally sent it to the CAA
I propose that the CAA eliminates the requirement for a Class 2 medical for Private Pilots, replacing it with the same medical requirement as that currently required for the Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) while retaining the current privileges of a PPL, and removes any requirement for PPLs to apply to the CAA for a medical certificate for a basic PPL.
There is substantial international information that points strongly to the fact that medical certificates do not prevent medical events from occurring in flight.
To expand on this subject:
♦ Paul Bertorelli researched some stats in the US (Avweb, 28 July 2015). He cites statisticss produced by a review of the autopsy results of 471 pilots involved in fatal aircraft accidents between 2011 and 2014, in which 403 had a medical certificate, 68 did not (flying under Sport Pilot rule) and 18 of the 403 were caused by medical incapacitation, or 4.4%. All of those pilots possessed current medicals which had not detected the issue that caused the accident. This indicates that for pilots, medicals do little or nothing to protect the public from the hazard of any pilot undergoing a medical event that leads to incapacitation or an impaired ability to maintain control of an aircraft in flight. None of the Sport Pilot accidents were caused by a medical event.
♦ The ICAO documents indicate there is a need to maintain some level of medical oversight over aviation activities. However, the ICAO acknowledges that, in applying the “1% Rule” (one pilot incapacitation due to a medical event in roughly every one million hours) for the above grouping the incidence of risk is very low.
♦ The rule to report medical events that impact on a pilot’s medical certificate has been removed from the PPL requirements, but is retained under the RPL requirements, which results in a confusing state of affairs. Are PPLs not required to report any such situation?
The reality for any pilot is a need to self-certify prior to any flight. In recent times, this has taken the form of the “I’m Safe” checklist which includes an assessment of any medical/health issues that may impact on a pilot’s ability to safely conduct the flight. Having said that, and in light of the point above, how many pilots report to the CAA that – due to having a head cold – they are not fit to fly? My guess is very few, if any, because too many know that to do so would incur further scrutiny, and significant costs, before being cleared to fly again – no one trusts the bureaucrats!
♦ The limitation of any medical exam is that its certification is only valid at the time of the assessment. Health issues can and often do come on with little or no notice, and can very quickly become debilitating. No medical assessment can predict this. As is indicated in the top point, medical assessments are unable to accurately identify and predict the likelihood of any such condition that can impact on a pilot’s medical certificate.
♦ The ICAO states that its own information identifies the primary cause of pilot incapacitation is gastrointestinal issues (75%). These can occur in the range of minor discomfort to rapid onset and complete debilitation. They are also identified as “usually impossible to predict”.
♦ For any risk management activity to be effective, the applied treatments must be proven to be effective. It is clear that the New Zealand population available to supply the level of data necessary to properly assess risk is insufficient. Therefore the CAA must rely on international statistics to inform it of the efficacy of its oversight and regulation processes in many areas. In the area of aviation medicals, it is very clear that all the CAA achieves is to create an additional layer of unproductive bureaucracy that does not serve to protect the public of New Zealand and, moreover, appears to be a revenue-gathering exercise by a Government department and an attempt to justify the existence of highly paid (but unnecessary) jobs.
♦ It is clear that the CAA considers cost to be a significant issue in the operation of its medical unit. From a public perspective, the obvious question is: How and why is the unit structured in such a way to generate such costs, and why are efficiencies through a review of its necessary functions (as required of other Government agencies) not looked for – and a restructure achieved?
Under the principle of “User Pays”, the CAA has introduced conflict:
♦ First, through over-regulation, the CAA is forcing pilots to pay for a service that provides no benefits, either individually or to the public in general.
♦ Second, the CAA is endeavouring to have pilots subsidise the additional scrutiny required for a very small number who have had an identified medical issue occur, but wish to retain their flying privileges. This breaches the principle and unfairly imposes costs where they are not necessary.
I would like to stress that this submission is not one that requests removal of medical examinations altogether, as I do not believe that is either sensible or appropriate risk management. I also believe that the lack of statistics to the contrary is a clear indication that the current approach to medical fitness applied by the CAA is excessive and leaves significant scope to reduce the level of surveillance of pilots, particularly recreational General Aviation ones.
I submit that, in view of the above evidence and in serving not only the Government, but the general public of New Zealand and the aviation community (pilots and support functions such as maintenance organisations) the CAA would be best served by supporting and encouraging general aviation activity through the reduction of the PPL medical requirements to the same level as that of the current RPL.
♦ If you have written to the CAA – on any subject – don’t just keep it to yourself and them. You can share it with fellow aviators by sending it to the GAA as well. Email to admin [at] caa [dot] gen [dot] nz