To fly an aircraft, other than a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) acting as a Sport Pilot, a Pilot needs to have a valid FAA Medical Certificate (Med Cert). It makes sense, the FAA wants to make sure the people flying above our heads are medically fit to fly! People often ask us if they would qualify for a FAA 3rd Class Medical Certificate (the minimum to act as a Private Pilot), here is our response and guidance!
Before Starting Training: Get a Medical Certificate
An AME is going to be the person that ultimately issues a Medical Certificate to you after completing a very basic medical exam for a 3rd class Certificate. We always recommend a student get their Med Cert prior to spending a lot of time and money on their training. We do not want to see you get to a point in the training where you’re not able to proceed with the training because you can’t get a Med Cert. In this case, it would likely increase the amount of money, and time you’d end up spending on your training because you’ll get to the solo stage of training and you don’t be legally able to fly solo without a valid Med Cert (and a Student Pilot Certificate, but that’s a topic for another post.)
Get Answers Before Committing to Exam
The emphasis put on PRIOR to scheduling your medical exam for your Certificate for a very simple and important reason. If you have questions about your health and whether you would pass or fail an exam for an FAA Medical Certificate do not trust anything you hear or read online (for the most part). What you want to do is talk to an AME on the phone. This is an unofficial/official way of getting answers to your questions.
If you schedule an FAA exam for a Medical Certificate without having your questions answered, you’re possibly opening pandora’s box. The document (FAA form 8500-8) you fill out on www.medxpress.faa.gov, the first step in getting a FAA Medical Certificate is a federal document. You do not want to lie on the document…it is a felony. When you show up for the exam there are one of two possible outcomes from the exam; 1) you are issued a Medical Certificate, 2) you are denied a Medical Certificate. The second outcome is clearly the worst that can happen, and it can be a big headache to a student/pilot.
If you are denied a Medical Certificate, you will possibly have to go through more medical testing, paperwork, and ultimately it will cost more and take longer to get. It is possible to get a Med Cert after having it denied, we know plenty of people that have done it, but it is a pain! The easiest way to avoid having it denied is to come prepared! Have your questions answered before going to see the AME! This way you will know what you will need to bring with you (paperwork or possibly medical records).
For those people that have had a Med Cert in the past and it has never been denied, revoked, or suspended by the FAA: if you are worried about getting a new Med Cert (maybe you’re getting back into flying after a few years) talk to an AME! If you want to fly…avoid getting the Med Cert denied by getting your questions answered and NOT rushing to get an official exam completed.
You Can Still Fly!
If your Med Cert has never been denied, revoked, or suspended…you can still fly! You can exercise your Pilot Certificate privileges (it doesn’t matter if it is a Private Pilot or a Commercial Pilot Certificate) as a Sport Pilot and fly a LSA, as long as you have a valid Driver’s License. We have a LSA that is available for rental at our Hartford location (KHFD)!
Generally speaking, a FAA Medical Certificate (14 CFR 61.23) is valid for:
- 60 calendar months (5 years) – if you are UNDER the age of 40 when the Med Cert is issued.
- If it is issued on January 17, 2021…it is valid until January 31, 2026.
- 24 calendar months (2 years) – if you are OVER the age of 40 when the Med Cert is issued.
- If it is issued on January 17, 2021… it is valid until January 31, 2023.
Written by Phillip Smith, CFI, MEI, CFI-I and the Owner and Chief Flight Instructor at Learn 2 Fly CT, LLC.