Aviation 021/17

Status: Open
Recommendation Date: 
28 June 2017
Recipient Name: 
CAA
Text:
The medical examiner did not, and saw no reason to, contact the instructor's GP as part of the medical assessment process. Had he done so, it is likely that he would have learned of the instructor's recent illness and initiated a more formalised review of the instructor's fitness to fly. A procedural requirement for medical examiners to consult GPs would help to ensure that they are fully informed about applicants' health.

On 28 June 2017 the Commission recommended to the Director of Civil Aviation that he review the medical application process:
- to ensure that it promotes a positive reporting culture for applicants
- that is more robust in identifying potentially serious health issues that may interfere with the safe exercise of the privileges to which applicants' medical certificates relate
- to ensure that the system supports medical examiners exercising their discretion to consult medical practitioners when assessing applications for medical certificates.
Reply Text:
By way of context to the CAA's response, it should be noted that consistent with developments overseas, the CAA has recently consulted with stakeholders regarding the appropriate medical certification standard for the holders of a private pilot licence. The international trend is for a reduction in the standard of any aviation medical certificate or even the removal of the requirement for such a certificate altogether. This reflects a view that the regulatory burden that has been imposed in the past is unreasonable given the very small number of accidents with a medical cause factor. It is important to note, however, that if such a change were to occur in New Zealand it would be very unlikely to apply to the medical certification of pilots conducting hire or reward activity. Therefore, the preceding context does not reduce the validity of the Commission's recommendations as they might apply to the holders of the aviation documents required for the performance of hire or reward operations.

The CAA accepts the first element of this recommendation and will do what it can to promote a "positive reporting culture" for medical certificate applicants to the degree it can do so while still acting decisively to protect the public interest when it has reasonable cause for concern about matters of potential aeromedical significance. The CAA will review current processes in line with this recommendation by 1 December 2017.

The CAA accepts the second element of this recommendation as it applies to the holders of aviation documents utilised for professional purposes. The CAA will review current processes in line with this recommendation by 1 December 2017.

The CAA considers that the third element of the recommendation is unworkable in that it would currently be unlawful in terms of the Civil Aviation Act for the Director to require an applicant, as a precondition to the issue of a medical certificate, to provide information from their GP or other medical practitioner, or to authorise the CAA to access that information, in the absence of reasonable cause in a specific case for requesting that information. In addition, the CAA considers that the provisions of S27C (3) of the Civil Aviation Act which requires medical practitioners to inform the Director if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a licence holder has a medical condition that may interfere with the safe exercise of the privileges of the licence they hold does not provide sufficient authority for the GP to share all medical information regarding a licence holder patient with a Medical Examiner. Any effective system in support of medical examiners in the manner anticipated by this element of the recommendation would require changes to the Civil Aviation Act. Given the above and the fact that the Ministry of Transport administers the Civil Aviation Act, the CAA recommends that the Commission consider making a recommendation to the Secretary for Transport for amendment of the Civil Aviation Act requiring GPs to provide, on request from a Medical Examiner, medical information regarding a patient who holds, or is seeking, aviation medical certification.
Related Investigation(s):