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A connundrum
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Answered By AOPA
I'd been out of flying for a couple of decades when I bought a dilapidated Supercub from a widow.  It was a whim.  On the downside, the plane needed fabric, but on the upside, she also came with a factory-refurbished 160 hp engine still covered and strapped to a pallet. 

So here I am at 68, an aged PPL/INST, with a few chronic but not severe health issues that all go with being 68 years old, and discovering on an "advisory" visit with an AME that it will likely take at least 6 months to a year to gather all the paperwork FAA OKC will require to consider me for a 3rd Class Medical.  (I promise the Osama bin Gallbladder explosion last summer was not my fault and my surgeon swears is not to be repeated.)  I'm not a drunk, drug addict, or ever had any run-ins with LEO concerning even the suspicions of driving with booze or drugs in my system.  I have no intention of flying in controlled airspace. 

Unfortunately, even with all that old linen and dope replaced with the new lightweight stuff, this plane is not going to come in at LSA weights...maybe 2-300 lbs over with the engine and oil.  

Of course, even if I am eventually granted the 3rd class, I've got a long wait ahead of me.  And if I am denied a 3rd Class, I can't fly LSA or my airplane. 

I don't know what I'm asking here, but I was watching the "Right Stuff" the other night, and our FAA OKC permitting system is feeling more like NASA guessing about what physiology requirements should be required for astronauts because NASA doesn't have a clue. 

I have heard whispers of many pilots who could benefit from a little treatment for depression or alcoholism but who are afraid to get help because they would lose their ticket.  And because there is little or no path back to flying for those who do get help. Forcing pilots to hide their condition doesn't make us safer as pilots, it makes us less safe. 

In my studies to catch up on the advances in aviation, I recently read that while Lithium (!) is an approved drug (the same Lithium that will fry one's kidneys over a long enough period of time, requiring an eventual kidney transplant), while modern, more effective antidepressants are not permitted.  

I don't know. 

As a man of science, it just seems like OKC is engaging in medieval medical practices while trying to support a glass cockpit world.  It's a confusing and discouraging system. 

You'd think 3rd Class and LSA would be the certification process the FAA would use as Learning Laboratories for approving modern drugs, treatments, and procedures up into the 2nd and 1st Class levels. 

Too humid today to spraypaint the Cub.  Thanks for reading.
1 Replies
Votes
AOPA Staff Answer
Hi Rick,

It is wonderful to hear when a pilot wants to return to flying, and that Supercub sounds like a great project plane. I have to agree with your AME, the process of being issued a medical certificate will not be immediate. However if you have all your documents prepared ahead of time, you may be able to expedite the process some. Your membership with AOPA includes some services that would be of benefit to you in this process, we would love to discuss this further with you. 
I am curious about the statement in regards to the Lithium, I believe there may be a misunderstanding there. Lithium use is not allowed by the FAA. 
We look forward to speaking with you