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Medical Certification Sometimes Hits Turbulence
Most (more than 90%) of medical certification applicants pass their physical examinations and the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) is able to issue a medical certificate at the time of the exam. Occasionally, however, a condition is found that requires a process of further review and, possibly, additional testing. The purpose of this page is to help answer some of the questions that you might have about this process. No instead take me to the actual FAA Regulation about Waivers-CFR 67 Subpart E.
What are my chances of ultimately being certified?
While it is impossible to predict your individual likelihood of certification, the current process allows the FAA to ultimately to certify 96% of individuals whose medical qualifications are initially questioned. Sometimes this process requires a period of recovery from an illness, surgery, or other condition.
Why does it take so long for the FAA to process my application and other reports?
The FAA receives an average of 1800 applications for medical certification each day. They are required to review each one to assure that medical standards are met. When an application is found that may not meet the requirements, a letter is written to the applicant, identifying the problem and outlining the further potential courses of action. They must then wait for a response from the applicant before they can proceed further. Each time new information is received, the application package must again be reviewed. Given the large number of applications being processed and the amount of time required to evaluate the information, it sometimes takes longer than they all would like.
What can I do to speed the medical certification process along?
There are several steps you can take to assure that your application package is processed in the shortest time possible:
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|Checklist For Expediting Aeromedical Certificate|
|Don't hesitate to ask your AME for advice and assistance in gathering the requested information.|
|When the FAA asks for additional information, they ask for the least amount possible in order to make their decision. This means they need everything requested, so the first thing that you can do is to make sure that all the requested information is being provided. Also, please understand, if they ask that a certain test be performed in a specific way, that is what is needed. Be sure that you take all of their letters with you to your physician, and try to emphasize the importance of exactly fulfilling the FAA's requests.|
|Have all of the requested information forwarded to the FAA or your AME in one package.|
|Do not hide important medical facts from the FAA. This just delays things further. If you send us information about one medical problem and the hospital records indicate a second serious medical problem, which they did not previously know about, they will have to start a new investigation of the second problem.|
|Give the FAA an adequate amount of time to process your application. If you call or write to find out the status of your application, your file will have to be located and taken out of line to answer the inquiry. This will further delay its processing. On the other hand, if you haven't heard from us in within 60 days, you may call us at the number listed below for an update.|
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Use this list of items like a checklist to speed the processing of your application.
Most physicians see their role as one of helping their patients by preventing medical problems when possible and treating medical problems if they do occur. This treatment may actually be a cure or it may be something that diminishes the impact of the medical condition on the person's daily life. There are many conditions that can be cured, such as appendicitis, gall bladder disease, and pneumonia. There are other conditions that can be treated but are not cured, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. In the case of this latter group, when a physician has done all that is possible to control the disease, the patient may be told that participation in any activity, including flying, is OK. To the treating physician, this means that there is nothing more to be done for the disease and that activity will not make the disease worse. Unfortunately, the treating physician does not always realize that the medical condition could make the activity worse (by making it less safe due to the medical condition). In addition, many physicians only fly as passengers on commercial aircraft. They do not realize the potential problems inherent in piloting aircraft, which may require more from the pilot than his or her medical condition will allow.
If you are found not medically qualified, you have several options. First, you need to understand why they found you disqualified. If you don't understand why, take their letter to your AME or treating physician and ask for an explanation. Next, write us a letter requesting reconsideration, and explain why you believe that your medical condition should not prevent you from flying. The FAA may then either agree with you and issue a certificate, ask you for further information, or sustain their previous action. If you still end up being not certified, you have the option of appealing their decision to the National Transportation Safety Board. The board will hear your arguments in a hearing before an administrative law judge, who will then make an independent decision regarding your eligibility under the medical standards. If the judge's decision is not favorable, you may appeal for further review by the full board. If that board's decision is not favorable, you may then pursue the matter through the federal court system. Take me to the CFR section about Waivers.
FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute Aeromedical Certification Division
P.O. Box 26080
Oklahoma City, OK 73126
Or call their customer service telephone number: (405) 954-4821
The FAA's job is to ensure that all pilots are medically qualified to fly. They take this responsibility very seriously. On the other hand, all of us at FlightPhysical.com are pilots, many AMEs are pilots, and all of the FAA employees work there because of their interest in aviation. We like to see as many airmen safely certified as possible, and we hope you will be among them.
Adapted from FAA statement: Medical Facts for Pilots Publication AM-400-01/2 Civil Aerospaece Medical Institute Written by: Steve Carpenter, M.D. Aerospace Medical Certification Division Prepared by: Aeromedical Education Division, AAM-400 P.O. Box 25082 Oklahoma City, OK 73125