Pilots rightly obsess about losing their medical certificates, and too many of them think sport pilot, with its “driver’s license medical,” is an ever-ready, morning-after remedy for this unfortunate event. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Losing” a medical is a catch-all description meaning the FAA has denied, revoked, suspended, or withdrawn your medical certification because it knows about a condition or situation contrary to its acceptable standards. And regardless the class of medical certification, first, second, third, or driver’s license, the FAA will not reissue–or approve–any type of medical certification until the situation is resolved.
Yes, you read that right: In the FAA’s eyes, a valid driver’s license is a form of medical certification. Remember, sport pilots have a choice: they must hold either an FAA medical certificate or a valid driver’s license.
After losing medical certification, the only way you can fly as a sport pilot is to resolve the disqualifying condition by jumping through the hoops necessary get a special issuance medical. When the special issuance expires, you can certify your medical fitness for flight with a driver’s license, without any paperwork or exams.
Pilot’s can avoid the time and expense of getting a special issuance by not losing their medical. If you think something might lead to this at your next visit to the aviation medical examiner–don’t go. Let your medical expire. Then fly according to sport pilot privileges and limitations using a valid driver’s license, again without any paperwork, exams, or surrendering your (expired) medical certificate.
Do not make this decision at the AME’s office. It’s too late. Once you fill out the application for a medical certificate, AMEs cannot tear it up. They must submit it. If more tests are needed, and you do not provide the requested test results, you’ve just lost your medical–the FAA will deny your application because you failed to provide the requested test results.
Flying on a driver’s license is not without its responsibilities. Most states require drivers to report–and not drive–the loss of consciousness or motor function, vision changes, impaired judgment, and seizures.
And FAR 61.23(c)(2)(iv) says a pilot flying on a driver’s license must: “Not know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner.”
By “light sport aircraft,” that means you’re flying something that meets the definition of a light sport aircraft in the category appropriate to your pilot’s certificate. For most, that means fixed wing. In the sport pilot world that’s a two-seater with a max gross weight of 1,320 pounds, a 45-knot max stall speed, and a top end of 120 knots in level flight with max continuous power. –Scott Spangler