Your connection with the sky

Medical Certification

Hi there, and welcome to letsgoflying.com. My world at AOPA is medical certification, and it's an interesting part of aviation that student pilots often are not introduced to early enough in their flight training. One of the first things you need to check off your "to do" list on the road to a private pilot certificate is to visit an FAA-designated aviation medical examiner (AME) for a physical examination and the issuance of a student pilot/medical certificate. You'll fill out the FAA form 8500-8-a medical history questionnaire- either online or in the AME's office on the day of your appointment (more on that in the next update). The medical application and physical exam allows the medical examiner and the FAA to get a basic idea about your general health and your past medical history. The examiner is looking for any medical issues that have ever come up in your life that could be a roadblock to issuing your medical. When you fell out of the big beech tree at grandma's house when you were 10, and woke up seconds later wondering what happened, you have a history of unconsciousness that will need to be reported. Or the three days in the hospital when you had your appendix taken out. Those are no problem, but what if you had a seizure from dehydration on the bike course of your first triathlon, (no, doing a triathlon is not a requirement for a medical!) or had a heart attack and bypass surgery? Those are more serious conditions, and require a little more work, but with an understanding of what medical records the FAA needs to see, and some patience, even a medical history as serious as these are not necessarily a show stopper. We'll get more into that medical application later. In the meantime, as an AOPA member, you can access an entire library of medical certification information at http://www.aopa.org/members/pic/medical/. Take a look at TurboMedical, our interactive medical application planning tool, to get up to speed on the FAA medical application.

11 Responses to “Medical Certification”

  1. I am a 2 time organ transplant survivor.

    1 year after my 2nd transplant, I applied for my Class III. 60 days later I had my medical in hand.

    All I can say is that do NOT try to hide info and follow the rules.

    PRIOR to applying you should see what medications are approved and not approved by the FAA. If you take a med, then you should seek an alternative approved medication or talk to the FAA directly. They were a ton of help to me.

  2. It's probably safe to say that some student pilots who have failed the medical exam probably wish they'd taken the exam earlier. As it would have probably saved them time and money. It sounds like it's good to know beforehand what the medical examiner and the FAA will be looking for as to be prepared. Thank you for your interesting article on medical certification for student pilots. I will pass this info and aopa.org along.

  3. Paul Smillie Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    In 2006 , I reapplied for a Class 3 medical when I wanted to start taking lessons again...Being honest , I entered a medication ( Mirapex )that I was taking for Restless Leg Syndrom ( RLS )...dummy me , I did not look before applying , that this was a disqualifying drug.... I quit taking it soon after my disqulaification , but did not appeal my medical...
    What can I do to reapply , and prove that I am not taking this or any other prescribed drug....??

  4. Drew Faiella AOPA 04616253 Says:
    October 7th, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I have the same question. Was there a reply?

  5. Thomas Boyle Says:
    November 18th, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    GaryC's advice is not good advice!

    If you have any (and I mean any) medical "condition," (don't kid yourself - allergies count) or take any medications (don't kid yourself, over-the-counter counts), the very last thing you should do is apply for a medical certificate without investigating further - it's a fast track to getting yourself grounded. Whatever AOPA says, the AME is not your friend (think of the AME as the friendly cop "interviewing you" as a suspect in a burglary). His job is to find reasons to ground you, not to find a way to put you in the cockpit. And, no matter how much the AME wants to help, once you fill out the request form for him/her to do the medical, if they find a problem they MUST report it to the FAA - and you do not have the option to "just forget the whole thing." And the FAA is not in the business of making excuses for you; they have to be able to tell the public that they took no chances with your condition - and they will take no chances. They mean well, and they'll do what they can for you, but they don't need the headlines.

    And don't even think - not for a second - of lying or, er, being economical with the truth - on the application or with an AME. Down that path lies badness indeed.

    Start off by finding out if there are any problems with your medical situation, and what - if anything - you can do to remedy them before you fill out an application for a medical.

    If your investigation shows that you're not safe to fly, then for heaven's sake don't fly without a safety pilot. But you can be perfectly safe to fly (I know people whose specialists wrote strongly-worded letters saying they were perfectly safe - the FAA doesn't care) and wind up either getting denied, or being put on a Special Issuance that subjects you to intrusive, inconvenient and expensive repetitive medical testing (not covered by your insurance, because it's not medically necessary) - and once you get that far it's too late to back out (if you can't afford the testing, your medical will be denied or cancelled, and you're grounded). IF YOU ARE SAFE TO FLY there are options for flying without a medical, but if you get yourself into the denied category, it's over - and if you get yourself an onerous Special Issuance, you're stuck with it.

    Don't wind up grounded - like a couple of commenters in this thread apparently did - because you went off and requested a medical exam without knowing that you might have a problem.

    I suggest that you talk to local pilots, find a good (knowledgeable) AME. Go and explicitly DO NOT apply for a medical - but ask the AME to do everything they would do for a medical. Fill out the medical section of the application form (don't complete the form; don't put your name on there, don't sign it - you are not applying for a medical) and then discuss the AME's findings and what it would mean for your flight status. If the AME isn't willing to do this for you, find another. There are lots of them, and what I'm recommending is neither unethical nor immoral, and if it's illegal I'm not aware of it.

    Only when you have identified all the potential issues and are satisfied that you can address them, should you apply for a medical. If you think you might be a Special Issuance, try to find out as much as you can about what special conditions you might be subjected to, before you apply. Remember, until you apply, you have options. Afterward, it gets harder.

  6. Hi,
    Need advise on my medical. On Airman Medical Certificate form, we are asked to provide medical visits within last 3 years. Last year i was prescribed few meds that were not acceptable my FAA, which i've used'em for about 9 mos. However, i 'm off those meds now(been 3 mos). Fact is that i didn't needed the meds in the first place. Anyways, long story short, if i apply for Class III medical that is required for a Private Pilot license, will my medical be denied? how to best handle my situation..
    Note: I didn't start my Private Pilot training yet...
    Your advise/help/recommendations is greately appreciated.
    Regards
    AeroC.

  7. To whom it concerns:

    Any medic would encourage personal health awareness, as any philosopher would encourage general knowledge for sports only. Rather than turn (our) beloved sciences into that horrible commodity; Money!!

    (joja*)

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