President’s Corner – September 2016

Sleeping with an Elephant

If you follow any sort of aviation news, you are aware that in the United States have just relaxed the requirements for what they call the class 3 medical (category 3 in Canada). The big American associations (EAA, AOPA) have been behind this for many years. For them, it is a big victory and justifiably so, since they had no real other option for their members.  We have had many enquiries and questions from our members about the reform, if and when COPA would engage in a similar crusade.  The answer is a simple no, not in any foreseeable future. Because we already have another option to satisfy the vast majority of our members’ needs.  To address the concerns of those that have asked us questions, further in this COPA Flight Patrick Gilligan has written an article giving an overview of the situation.

Understandably, we often compare ourselves and look to the U.S. for changes that my may happen here, but we are a different and a sovereign country (I am still so surprised when members and non-members call me up and say “I’m a member of EAA or AOPA, why should I be a member of COPA?”). The world’s aviation entities look to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), where norms, standards, policies, etc. that can be applied at a global level are defined.  The intent is really to set the bar for safe global mobility, with recipes that can be applied in any ICAO member state.  Even for medical categories. The names may differ (an ICAO Class 2 is the equivalent of a Canadian Category 3), but there are equivalences across the countries and for any international flight, you still need to have an ICAO-recognized medical certificate, based on internationally applicable norms.

In Chicago in late July of this year, COPA attended the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) biennial World Assembly meeting in Chicago with about 25 other associations like ours. COPA is the second biggest in the world after AOPA-US. In the end, several resolutions were presented for adoption and one of them was to push ICAO in adopting something like the revised US Class 3 for private pilots. Accepting such a resolution is not done on the spur of the moment and it needs to be looked at for more than just a few minutes, by each participating nation, to assess their needs but also the impacts should ICAO accept such a standard.  We are talking about provincial or state norms (drivers licenses) with varying degrees of conformity, difficult to verify and apply internationally.

The resolution passed, but was not accepted unanimously: as the COPA representative, I officially abstained. Based on the fact that we already have something similar in Canada, that we would need to study this carefully before following in these footsteps and that this is not one person’s decision – we need to discuss with you the members, through your elected board of directors.  Send me your comments at