A medical certificate proves that you met the physical fitness standards outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A certificate is required to fly solo in any airplane, helicopter, gyroplane, or airship.

Dcotor Explaining a Medical ExamTo obtain a medical certificate, you need to be examined by an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). The FAA website has a tool that lets you search for AMEs in your area.

There are no minimum or maximum age requirements for obtaining a medical certificate. Your health is the sole consideration.

Once you obtain your medical certificate, you must have it in your possession at all times when exercising the privileges for which you have been licensed. If you lose or misplace your certificate, you’ll need to request a copy using AC Form 8060-56.

Classes of Medical Certificates

A first-class medical certificate is the highest class available and offers the most privileges for a professional pilot. A first-class medical certificate is required when:

  • Acting as the pilot-in-command exercising the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate
  • Acting as the second-in-command with the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate when three or more pilots are required
  • Serving as a pilot flight crewmember for an operation conducted by a pilot who is aged 60 or older

A second-class medical certificate is required when:

  • Using the second-in-command privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate
  • Utilizing privileges of a commercial pilot certificate

Third-class medical certificates are generally used by hobbyists and non-commercial pilots. A third-class medical certificate is required when:

  • Taking advantage of the privileges of a private pilot certificate, recreational pilot certificate, or student pilot certificate
  • Exercising the privileges of a flight instructor certificate to act as the pilot in command or as a required flight crew member
  • Taking a practical test in an aircraft to obtain a recreational pilot, private pilot, commercial pilot,  airline transport pilot, or flight instructor certificate

“Basic Med” is an alternative way to get a medical authorization to fly that involves filling out a written application, going to your local doctor (who does not have to be an AME), and doing some periodic online learning.

Potentially Disqualifying Conditions

Pilots seeking a medical certificate can’t suffer from any issue that would pose a risk of harm to themselves or others if they were to experience a medical emergency while flying. Some of the most common potentially disqualifying conditions include:

  • Bipolar disease, psychosis, or a personality disorder that is severe enough to have manifested by overt acts
  • Cardiac-related issues such as a cardiac valve replacement, heart replacement, permanent cardiac pacemaker, angina pectoris, or coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes requiring hypoglycemic medication
  • Epilepsy or disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of the cause
  • Substance abuse or substance dependence

If a potentially disqualifying condition is being adequately controlled with regular medical treatment, the FAA can choose to issue medical certification contingent on periodic reports.

Effect of Prescription Medication on Certificate Approval

Some prescription medications can present problems with obtaining a certificate if they are not approved by the FAA as safe for flying. For example, the ADHD medications Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, and Strattera are considered disqualifying in and of themselves. Details on the different types of problematic medications can be found on the FAA website.

If you are taking any sort of prescription medication that can cause drowsiness, affect mood, or impair cognitive function, your doctor may be able to help you switch to an approved medication for the same condition. However, there may be a waiting period of up to 90 days after you switch medications before your application can be approved.

Appealing a Denial of Your FAA Medical Certificate

If your medical certificate is denied, you have 30 days to file an appeal with the FAA. Your attorney can help you formulate an effective appeal by providing doctor and expert opinions, medical reports, and test results to prove to the Federal Air Surgeon that you are able to fly without endangering public safety.

If your condition is temporary and not expected to worsen, Steinberg Law, LLC can help you request that the Federal Air Surgeon grant a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA). Your SODA does not expire and enables the medical examiner to issue a medical certificate of a specified class.

If the FAA reconfirms the denial of your certificate, we can help you appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB is independent from the FAA and DOT, but your appeal must be filed within 60 days after the FAA denial.

Request a Case Review Today

If you think there may be a problem obtaining your FAA medical certificate or your application has recently been denied, Steinberg Law, LLC can help. We can review your application before you file it to make sure it accurately reflects your true status and come up with a plan to mitigate potential issues. If needed, we can also represent you at FAA and NTSB hearings before the administrative law judge. Request a free 15-minute case review to learn more.

Frank Steinberg
Committed to helping clients with employment litigation, business litigation, and aviation law throughout NJ.