The Hurdles of Obtaining a Medical Certificate

Topics: Hypertension, Diabetes mellitus, Myocardial infarction Pages: 11 (2894 words) Published: April 25, 2014


A medical certificate is basically a statement from a doctor certified by the FAA, also known as an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), saying that the airman is physically safe to fly an airplane under normal conditions. It is the doctor’s job to find a reason to prove that you do not deserve a medical because flying can be very dangerous and fatal. The doctor will put you through several tests that are putting your body to different extremes trying to find some way to decline you a medical. There are several reasons why you may be declined a medical, most are wrapped up in fourteen specific diagnoses. The process of obtaining an aviation medical certificate is multi-faceted and can be very time consuming and stressful but by understanding and knowing the whole process it will make this moment of your life memorable and non-stressful.

To obtain a medical certificate you must be put through a series of questions and tests from an aviation medical examiner. The first part of this exam is a list of medical history and pilot certificate questions from the AME such as pilot identification, class applying for, and total pilot time. After that the applicant will be asked to fill out a form with general information questions such as name, date of birth, and such. The next part of the exam is an initial review where the doctor will go over the form that was filled out and make sure everything is correct and up to par. The next part is the actual physical; this part takes the longest and is the most extensive. There isn’t a certain order that the doctor has to go by to check the applicant out but this part of the test will check pretty much every inch of your body, making sure every part is fully functioning or is able to function with FAA legal assistance. A few examples of things the AME will check for in the different categories are: when he/she checks the applicants ears the doctor will test them by having a normal tone level conversation in a quiet room from 6 feet away, if the applicant fails that test then the AME will put the applicant’s ears to a more complex test; a kind of odd part to check for during the physical is the nose but the AME must check to make sure there are no polyps formed or forming that may cause complete blockage of the nasal passage. There are over 20 different areas that the doctor must check and all of them are quite extensive and can be very personal. (Physical, 2011)

So does everyone involved with aircraft need an aviation medical certificate? The answer to that would be no, most airman need one but there are a few types of aviators that do not. Some of those people are light sport pilots, hot air balloon operators, and aircraft mechanics. All someone has to have to operate a light sport plane is a valid driver’s license, for ballooning you mustn’t have any condition that would prevent you from operating the aircraft safely. (Hot Air Balloons, 2012)

Not all medical certificates are the same, there are three different classes of certificates which are applied for based on what purpose you need a medical. The three different classes are conveniently called first class, second class, and third class certificates. First class certificates are generally for Airline Transport Pilots (ATP), second class for commercial pilots, and third class for pilots who are flying just for pleasure and business. (FAA, 2013) Due to the higher safety needed for transporting people and cargo on airlines the first class certificate is much more difficult to obtain and requires close to perfect health from it’s recipients. All three classes test the same areas of the body however first class and second classes have stricter requirements to pass, such as in the eye test a third class certificate only requires the applicant to 20/40 whereas the first and second classes one must see 20/20. (AOPA, 2013)

Like stated above, it is the doctor’s job to find a reason to...

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Physical, F. (2011, January 06). Guide to the aeromedical exam-history. Retrieved from
WebMD. (2013, February 1). What is bipolar disorder?. Retrieved from
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