The FAA medical is a requirement for pilots and student pilot solos. (except
gliders and balloons). To find out more about student pilot requirements see
1. What is a FAA medical certificate?
Flying is a fascinating and enjoyable experience, whether done for business
or pleasure. Flying has the potential, however, for serious consequences if
not done properly and carefully. Just as it would be foolish to fly in an
aircraft that is not airworthy, it would be foolish to fly as, or with, a
pilot who is medically compromised. Annual inspections are performed on all
aircraft to assure that they meet minimum safety standards. Routine medical
exams accomplish the same goal for pilots. When an aircraft successfully completes
an annual inspection, the inspector endorses in the logbooks that the aircraft
is airworthy. Similarly, when a pilot successfully passes the flight physical,
the physician endorses the medical certificate which the pilot then carries
with him/her each time he/she flies. This is then evidence that the pilot
has met the medical standards for aircraft operation. For additional information
and a list of FAA Flight Surgeons see FAA
2. Who is required to hold a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)Medical
Any person acting as pilot-in-command or other required crew member of an
aircraft (except for free balloons, gliders, and ultralights) must hold a
current and appropriate medical certificate. This includes student pilots
in solo flight as well as private, commercial, and airline pilots.
3. How does one get a FAA medical ?
The FAA has designated over 5000 private physicians (called Aviation Medical
Examiners or AMEs) around the United States (and the world) to take applications
for, give exams for, and issue FAA medical certificates. A list of FAA designated
medical examiners is available. The applicant simply contacts the physician's
office for an appointment and after arrival, completes an application form
and undergoes the physical examination. If the applicant meets the appropriate
medical standards, the AME will issue the medical certificate.
4. What types of certificates are available and how long are they good
There are three classes of medical certificates:
Class 3 medical certificates are for private pilot duties only. They
have the least restrictive medical requirements and the certificates are generally
good for 3 years for applicants under age 40 and 2 years for those 40 and
Third Class Certificate Requirements
Distant Vision - 20/40 or better in each eye separately, with or without
Near Vision - 20/40 or better in each eye separately (Snellen equivalent),
with or without correction, as measured at 16 inches.
Intermediate - No requirement.
Color Vision - Ability to perceive those colors necessary for safe
performance of airmen duties.
Hearing - Demonstrate hearing of an average conversational voice in
a quiet room, using both ears at 6 feet, with the back turned to the examiner
or pass an audiometric test.
Audiology - Audiometric speech discrimination test:
Pure tone audiometric test: Unaided, with thresholds no worse than: (for the
worst ear) 35Db at 500Hz, 50Db at 1,000Hz, 50Db at 2,000Hz, 60Db at 3,000Hz
Ear, Nose, Throat - No ear, nose, or throat disease or condition that
may reasonably be expected to be manifested by vertigo or a disturbance of
speech or equilibrium.
Blood Pressure - While no specific values have been stated in the
standards, 155/95 (systolic/diastolic) have been the maximum allowed.
Electro-Cardiogram - Not normally required. Mental - No diagnosis
of psychosis, bipolar disorder, or any other severe personality disorder.
Substance Dependence/Substance Abuse - A diagnosis or medical history
of substance dependence is disqualifying unless there is established clinical
evidence, satisfactory to the Federal Air Surgeon, of recovery, including
sustained total abstinence from the substance(s) for not less than the preceding
2 years. A history of substance abuse within the preceding 2 years is disqualifying.
The list of substances includes alcohol and all illegal drugs (marijuana,
cocaine, etc.) plus certain prescription drugs such as sedatives, anxiolytics,
Disqualifying Conditions - (1) Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic
medications; (2) Angina pectoris; (3) Coronary heart disease that has been
treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic of clinically significant;
(4) Myocardial infarction; (5) Cardiac valve replacement; (6) Permanent cardiac
pacemaker; (7) Heart replacement; (8) Psychosis; (9) Bipolar disease; (10)
Personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself
by overt acts; (11) Substance dependence; (12) Substance abuse; (13) Epilepsy;
(14) Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of cause;
and (15) Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without satisfactory
explanation of cause.
NOTE: Waivers for many of these conditions may be obtained through application
to the FAA Aeromedical Certification Branch in Oklahoma City.
Class 2 medical certificates are for commercial, non-airline duties
as well as private pilot duties. This certificate would be required of crop
dusters, charter pilots, corporate pilots, and anyone else who flies commercially.
The certificate is good for 1 year for commercial activities and 2 or 3 years
for private pilot use.
Second Class Certificate Requirements - All of the Third Class requirements
with the following additions/amendments.
Distant Vision - 20/20 or better in each eye separately, with or without
Intermediate Vision- 20/40 or better in each eye separately (Snellen
equivalent), with or without correction at age 50 and over, as measured at
Class 1 faa medical certificates are required for pilots of scheduled
airliners. They have the most stringent medical requirements and the certificate
is good for 6 months for airliner duties. Like the Class 2 certificate, however,
it is good for 1 year for other commercial activities and 2 or 3 years for
private pilot duties.
First Class Certificate Requirements - All of the Third and Second Class
requirements with the following addition.
Electro-Cardiogram - At age 35 and annually after age 40.
5. What medical standards must be met to be issued each of the above certificates?
The medical standards for each class of medical certificate are put forth
in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR 67).
6. What are the minimum and maximum ages for obtaining a FAA medical
certificate? There is no minimum or maximum age for obtaining a FAA medical
certificate. Any applicant who is able to pass the exam may be issued a certificate.
However, applicants under the age of 16 (the minimum age for a student pilot
certificate) will not be able to obtain an airman certificate (pilot's license)
and would therefore have no practical use for the FAA medical certificate.
7. Can I get my student pilot certificate at the same time I take my initial
Medical?Yes. AME's are authorized to issue combination Airman Medical and
Student Pilot certificates to appropriate applicants. To obtain this combination
certificate, the applicant must not only meet the medical standards but also
must be at least 16 years old and be able to read, speak, and understand the
English language. If these requirements are met, the AME will issue the combined
NOTE: The combined faa medical / student pilot certificate will not
be good for flight duties until properly endorsed by the student's instructor.
8. What does it cost to get a FAA medical certificate?
The FAA does not set fees for the performance of the FAA medical exam and
issuance of the FAA medical certificate. The AME is allowed to charge the
applicant appropriately, as long as it is not more than his/her usual fee
for similar examinations for other purposes. If you are concerned about the
cost of the FAA medical exam, please discuss this with the doctor you are
thinking about seeing. The FAA has no additional fees above what the physician
9. I have some minor medical problems and would like to find out whether
or not they will create difficulties when I go to get my medical certificate.
Who could I contact in order to get further information about my situation?
There are several sources for information regarding the various FAA medical
conditions that might afflict applicants for medical certification. One source
is your local AME. This physician (see Question 3 above) may be willing to
discuss your medical problems and the impact they are likely to have on certification.
Frequently, AMEs will do this over the phone without charge. Another alternative
is to contact the FAA directly, either through the Regional Flight Surgeons
office or through the Aeromedical Certification Division of the FAA in Oklahoma
City. A third source of information is through the various pilot organizations
such as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)
or the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).
10. Is a pilot required to report to the FAA that he or she has undergone
LASIK or other laser eye surgery to correct vision?
LASIK and other forms of vision corrective surgery have potential adverse
effects that could be incompatible with flying duties. These include:
Corneal scarring or opacities worsening or variability of vision night-glare
haziness of vision The FAA expects that a pilot will not resume piloting aircraft
until his or her own treating health care professional determines:
The post operative condition has stabilized, there have been no significant
adverse effects or complications, and, the person meets the appropriate FAA
medical vision standards. If these determinations are favorable and he or
she is otherwise qualified, the pilot may immediately resume piloting but
must ensure that:
The treating health care professional documents his or her determinations
in the pilot's health care treatment record, a copy of that record is immediately
forwarded to the Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City, and
a personal copy is retained. When resumed, the airman may continue flight
duties unless informed otherwise by the FAA or another disqualifying condition
11. If my application for a FAA medical certification is turned down,
what recourse do I have?
Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations outlines the appeal process for
applicants who are denied medical certification. In a nutshell, the initial
appeal would be to the Federal Air Surgeon (through the Oklahoma City office)
to request an authorization for the special issuance of a medical certificate.
This might result in a medical certificate that is time-limited, contingent
upon the successful completion of addition FAA medical testing, or otherwise
restricted. If this request is not successful, then an appeal to the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
could be made. If the NTSB concurs with the FAA's denial action, you could
then request a hearing in Federal District Court and ultimately the Supreme
Court. See additional documents in FAA
12. What happens if I get my FAA medical certificate and then I have some
sort of medical problem that develops before the certificate expires? Do I
have to report it and do I have to ground myself? Can I keep on flying until
the certificate expires?
The regulations are quite clear that, despite the presence of an unexpired
FAA medical certificate, it is still your responsibility as a pilot to maintain
your health. If you develop a new medical condition or experience the worsening
of an existing medical condition such that you may no longer meet the medical
requirements, then you must not fly until the problem is resolved. A simple
problem such as a cold, a broken arm, or an abscessed tooth may require nothing
more than the appropriate treatment and a little time before you can safely
return to the skies. A more complicated problem or the development or change
of a chronic illness may necessitate consultation with an AME or the FAA before
flying resumes. As long as you choose not to fly, the medical condition does
not need to be reported to the FAA until you wish to return to flying.
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