FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has signed off on the much-anticipated third-class medical certificate rulemaking, beginning the executive-level review process from the Department of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget, the administrator says in remarks prepared for the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.

The rulemaking, which EAA Chairman Jack Pelton says is the most pressing issue among his members, will "lay out the parameters that define how a person could fly without a third-class medical certificate," Huerta says. "We are trying to take a reasonable approach to ensure we maintain the highest levels of safety in recreational flying.

FAA, facing increasing congressional pressure to act on a two-year-old joint EAA/Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association petition to exempt recreational fliers from third-class medical requirements, announced in April that it was beginning a rulemaking project to consider whether to substitute a driver’s license in place of a medical certificate in certain cases.

Huerta notes that the agency received more than 16,000 comments on the EAA/AOPA petition, which would impact 39,000 pilots. Huerta notes that exemptions are typically for limited circumstances and limited durations.

"We do major policy changes through rulemaking," he says, adding in regard to the third-class medical that, "Fundamentally what you’re trying to achieve is a long-lasting policy change. A change that effects this many people is typically not done using the exemption route."

He notes that the rulemaking process takes time, so the agency hasn’t ruled out an exemption as an interim step. "But we don’t want to have it get in the way of expeditiously completing the rulemaking process." Huerta notes his goal is to issue the proposed rulemaking by year’s end.

Pelton, speaking to reporters during AirVenture, said the lack of action has been "very frustrating. We have been told for quite some time that there would be a proposal ... and we have seen nothing."

Pelton notes that lawmakers, who have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to require the change in third-class medical requirements, will continue to put pressure on the agency to ensure a rule change is ultimately issued. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) spoke to EAA attendees expressing his continued support for the bill, while Rep. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) is also on the schedule during AirVenture to discuss third-class medical, among other issues.