12. Everything You Need To Know About Your Aviation Medical Certificate
Let's talk Aviation Medical Certificate
To get your medical certificate you have to get a physical exam done by an FAA designated Aviation Medical Examiner AME. You will first have to fill out an application on the medexpress website and the you will schedule an appointment with your local AME.
Before you go for your appointment you will have to complete an application on the FAA MedXPress website: https://medxpress.faa.gov/medxpress/
You will need to fill out some preliminary medical questions prior to your appointment. During your examination you will have to meet certain medical standards depending on what class of medical certificate you are trying to get.
Three classes of Medical Certificate
If you want to be an airline pilot, using your ATP certificate, the you will need a first class medical. The first class medical is valid for 12 months and then defaults back down to a second class medical. If you are over the age of 40 you will have to return to your AME (Aero Medical Examiner) every six months to get it renewed.
The second class medical is needed if you want to fly in any kind of commercial capacity. So that means for example pipeline flying, another aerial surveillance, flying tours and other time building gigs in addition to agricultural flying such as crop dusting. Again this medical certificate is valid for 12 moths and then after that this will default back down to a third class certificate.
And that last tier, the third class certificate is needed for private pilots and student pilots. This has the longest validity of 60 months for pilots younger than 40 years of age and 24 months fo those that are older.
Three outcomes of the examination
- Your medical certificate will be issued
- your medical certificate is denied, or
- your medical certificate is deferred.
There are a few things that could potentially complicate your application for a medical certificate:
- prescription medications
- certain physical limitations
- any prior hospitalizations
- a history with substance abuse
- any history with mental disorders
Even if you indicated that you have one of these disqualifying, you might be able to get a medical certificate anyway through a “special issuance authorization” that the FAA issues. In that case your medical is only valid along as your special issuance is valid for which can be shorter than the standard time that specific class of medical is valid for.
“Statement Of Demonstrated Ability (SODA)”.
This is a waiver that would be issued if you have a condition that is not likely to change. For example upper or lower limb amputees could qualify for a SODA after doing a flight test. I personally have seen a pilot that was lacking a thumb on his right hand for example, and was able to fly with a SODA. In that case, this statement is part of your medical and you don’t have continue to provide additional documentation any longer.
Now there is an alternative to holding a medical which is called BasicMed.
BasicMed is an alternative medical qualification to the third class medical so you can be PIC if have held a medical before and if your airplane complies with the following:
- not carry more than five passengers
- operate under VFR or IFR, within the US, at less than 18000 feet MSL, not exceeding 250 knots
- and you can’t fly for hire
In order to be eligible for BasicMed you personally have to:
- Hold a U.S. driver’s license.
- Hold or have held a medical certificate issued by the FAA at any point after July 14, 2006.
- Answer the health questions on the Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC) and complete your examination by any physician – required every 4 years.
- Take the online medical education course (required every 2 years) and complete the attestations/consent to the Nati
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