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The Medical Certificate

The push was for airline pilots to receive an experimental drug demanded by the airlines. Some airlines were more dictatorial in their demand, but make no mistake about it, the objective of all the airlines was to get everyone to accept the shot. Our CEO even stated in a meeting with pilots that he wanted passenger to take the shot. (That really cemented my perception of reality) Of course, the obvious question was, do the airlines have the authority to demand such a medical procedure of their pilots? It is my position they do not, and although I was assured by management that they do, I was never provided with that authority. Airlines declared that because they are federal contractors, we were required to take the shot. The language airlines used was very peculiar and piqued my interest, so I began my research.

Of great interest is the pilot medical certificate. The authority vested in a pilot medical certificate ends with the pilot. In other words, the pilot is the end user and may not vest that authority in any other person, particularly, the aircraft operator, or the airline. The authority is maintained by the pilot making health decisions that impact the standard of issue under public policy 14 CFR Part 67. The FAA did not vest that authority in the aircraft operator or the airlines nor can they. The Act is public law and as such a pilot medical certificate is public policy. As explained later on, this fact plays a major role in the events leading up to litigation.

According to FAA statistics, by the end of 2022 there were 756928 individuals who held a pilot certificate. For most of those individuals, an FAA issued medical certificate of some class is required by the code to operate aircraft. There is a mix of general aviation pilots, military pilots, and airline pilots. The focus is on airline pilots who make up roughly 0.02 % of the United States population. Airline pilots move the nation and contribute to a large segment of the economic engine. It was time to put the authority of the medical certificate to the test.

Slowly, a clear picture was emerging. For 38 years the FAA never demanded any treatment. Surely the FAA would not want to create a deficiency for pilots, and there are already rules addressing medical deficiency. Why would the airlines do that and by what authority? I had recent involvement in general aviation as an instructor and was familiar with the basics. Rule 14 CFR ยง61.53 gives the pilot the authority needed to make health decisions respecting acting as pilot or pilot crew member. Restricting breathing and all the policies that my airline created did not make sense and was in direct contradiction of the regulation. At the right moment, I invoked my authority over my medical certificate and that did not sit too well with the airline.