FAA Aeromedical Administration
By W. Keith Martin, M.D.
Air Line Pilot, May 2003, p.5
What are the specific classes of FAA Medical Certificates?
|In this capacity, an AME is acting as a representative of the FAA and is required to report aeromedically relevant information about airmen to the FAA Airman Medical Certification Division.|
The three classes of airman medical certificates, and corresponding categories of airmen requiring such a medical certificate, are as follows.
• First-class—airline transport pilot. Valid for the remainder of the month of issue plus 6 calendar months; or plus 12 calendar months for activities requiring a second-class medical certificate; or plus 24 calendar months for activities requiring a third-class medical certificate.
• Second-class—commercial pilot; flight engineer; flight navigator; air traffic control tower operator. Valid for the remainder of the month of issue plus 12 calendar months; or plus 24 calendar months for activities requiring a third-class medical certificate.
• Third-class—private pilot/student pilot. Valid for the remainder of the month of issue plus 24 calendar months or 36 months if the pilot is less than 40 years of age.
Each medical certificate must bear the same date as the date of medical examination, regardless of the date the certificate is actually issued.
Who are FAA aviation medical examiners (AMEs)?
An aviation medical examiner (AME) is a physician whom the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized to perform airman physical examinations for issuance of FAA medical certificates. In this capacity, an AME is acting as a representative of the FAA and is required to report aeromedically relevant information about airmen to the FAA Airman Medical Certification Division.
What is their authority?
The Federal Air Surgeon delegates authority to the AME to examine applicants for, and holders of, airman medical certificates to determine whether they meet the medical standards for the issuance of an airman medical certificate. Upon completing this process, an AME will issue, defer, or deny airman medical certificates to applicants or holders of such certificates based upon whether they meet the applicable medical standards. The medical standards are written up in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).
Senior AMEs are the only AMEs authorized to issue first-class airman medical certificates.
A medical certificate issued by an AME is considered to be affirmed as issued unless, within 60 days after date of issuance, it is reversed by the Federal Air Surgeon, or the Regional Flight Surgeon, or the Manager of the Aeromedical Certification Division of the Civil Aeromedical Institute. However, if the FAA requests additional information from the applicant within 60 days after the issuance, the above-named officials may reverse the issuance within 60 days of receipt of the information. In most instances, the individual is allowed to continue with flight duty pending the FAA’s receipt of this in-formation. The FAA generally allows 30 days for the airman to respond. Requests range from simple administrative action (e.g., failure to answer a question on the application), to additional medical testing, such as repeating an EKG.
What happens once I provide this information to the FAA?
You will receive written correspondence from the FAA outlining its final decision. If additional or follow-up information is required at the time of your next FAA medical exam, the agency will so indicate. Response correspondence is generally provided within 60 days from the date the FAA receives your information. When providing this information to the FAA, be sure to do so by certified or overnight mail so that documentation of responding is recorded.
I understand the AME has three options when a medical application is completed.
First, the expected outcome for a physical examination is that the medical certificate will be ISSUED. In this circumstance, the pilot completes the FAA Form 8500-8, Application for FAA Medical Certification, at the time of the physical examination, and assuming he or she meets all of the standards, walks out of the AME’s office with a new medical certificate in hand. The overwhelming majority of physical exams have this result.
A second result is a DENIAL of the medical certificate. If airmen clearly do not meet FAA medical standards, particularly if they have conditions that are specifically grounding in Part 67 of the FARs or the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, the AME may issue a denial letter to the airman revoking the airman’s current medical certificate. Denials are not necessarily permanent. If the airman can present information that the disqualifying medical condition has resolved or is being treated in an aeromedically safe manner, the FAA may reinstate the airman’s medical certificate.
The third possible outcome is an intermediate decision, a DEFERRAL. In this situation, the AME notes a medical condition that is questionable with regards to eligibility for medical certification. The airman takes the physical examination, but rather than issue the medical certificate or give the pilot a denial letter, the AME defers the application and medical certificate to the Regional Flight Surgeon or the Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City. With the AME’s permission, the airman may continue to fly on his or her current medical certificate until it lapses.
Unfortunately, obtaining an FAA response to a deferral often takes several months. The FAA response letters frequently ask the pilot to provide additional medical information to support the application. A 30-day suspense from the date of the FAA letter on this reporting requirement is common.
The FAA, if it has received no information at the end of the period, may deny the airman’s medical certificate. The airman is not eligible to use the older medical certificate after it expires.
Instead, the airman must await the arrival of the previously deferred certificate to be returned from the FAA office to which the AME forwarded it.
If the FAA requires additional information, this process may take several months.
Submitting complete information to the FAA is critical to timely certification decisions.
I currently have a Special Issuance Authorization (SIA), and the FAA has required me to provide yearly follow-up regarding my history of a chronic medical condition. My FAA medical examination was completed last fall, and to date I have received no request from the FAA to provide further information at the time of my next physical examination. Should I continue to do so, as previously required?
The FAA routinely requires periodic follow-up on many medical conditions, once they have been properly reported. A current status report from the airman’s treating physician is often requested before or at the time of the next medical. The FAA, once it is comfortable that this condition is stable over a 1- to 2-year period, will often remove this requirement. You will note that the SIA contains a date of expiration. Your AME cannot issue, nor is a medical certificate considered valid, past this expiration date. Because of workload and personnel losses due to military activation, the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City is often delayed in requesting information or up-dating SIA expiration dates.
If your current SIA is within 60 days of expiring and you have not received a new authorization, please contact the ALPA Aero-medical Office for help.
I have recently been on sick leave following an operation. My FAA medical certificate expires, for first-class certification, at the end of this month. I will not, however, be ready to return to work. Must I notify the FAA or my AME?
No. If your medical certificate expires during the time you are out for extended sick leave, you simply re-apply for a new FAA medical certificate once your treating physician has released you to return to full activity.
I was hospitalized recently, but my physician then released me to go back to work. Should I have reported this to the FAA before returning to work?
Provided you have a current FAA medical certificate, you need not necessarily report hospitalization, per se, to the FAA. You may, how-ever, have to report the reason for your hospital stay before you may return to flight duty.
Unless your physician is an FAA-designated AME or your treating physician is familiar with FAA regulations regarding airman medical certification, do not assume that, because he or she has given the O.K. to work, you are ready to return to the flight deck.
Always check with your AME or contact the ALPA Aeromedical Office for more specific information related to reporting.
W. Keith Martin, MD, is an associate aeromedical advisor with ALPA’s Aeromedical Office, which is located in Aurora, Colo.