If you wish to pursue a career as a pilot, then there are certain requirements that you must fulfill in order to do so. A medical certificate is an integral part of becoming a pilot, as a pilot is responsible for himself/herself and everyone on the plane. There are three types of medical certificates (first class, second class, and third class) under the FAA branch. In this article, we will break down the first class medical certificate for you!
Firstly, what is the First Class Medical certificate?
Well, the certificate is an essential document that states that you are fit and capable of flying a plane. From a more technical perspective, the certificate is required in the following situations:
- An airline pilot exercising pilot-in-command privileges of their airline transport pilot certificate
- A pilot serving as a required flight crew member in the airlines that has reached his or her 60th birthday
- Operate as second-in-command in the airlines on an aircraft that requires three or more pilots
What does a First Class Medical exam consist of?
Now that we know why you need the certificate, let's look at what the medical test entails. Under the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14 → Chapter I → Subchapter D → Part 67, the medical is broken into different sections and looks at the following:
- Eye - To test your vision with or without corrective lenses.
- Ear, nose, throat, and equilibrium - To test your hearing capabilities, ability to understand speech, and if you have had any prior disease or condition of the middle or internal ear, nose, oral cavity, pharynx, or larynx.
- Mental - To establish that you have no medical history of a personality disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, substance dependence (there are some exceptions).
- Neurologic - To establish that you have no medical history of epilepsy, disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory medical explanation, or transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without satisfactory medical explanation.
- Cardiovascular - To establish that you have no medical history of myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, coronary heart disease that has required treatment or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant, cardiac valve replacement, permanent cardiac pacemaker implantation, or heart replacement.
- General medical condition - To establish that you have no medical history of diabetes mellitus that requires insulin or any other hypoglycemic drug for control or no other organic, functional, or structural disease, defect, or limitation that would affect your ability to carry out your duties.
- Discretionary issuance
You can read more about each criterion in depth by heading over to the official government website*.
(*The e-CFR data is current as of June 11, 2021)
Are there any medical factors that would disqualify you from becoming a pilot?
As stated under Part 67 within Subchapter D, you must be able to pass the different tests to be able to obtain your medical certificate. Having said that, the situation is dependent on the applicant as each individual will have a different level of severity if any at all. You may still eligible even though you have a medical history but I must emphasize that it comes down to the individual case! You can find the exact details on the ECFR website. If you look at vision, for example, not all pilots have perfect vision but that deficit is compensated for by corrective lens.
Section 67.409 under 14 CFR states that you have the right to appeal if your application for your medical certificate is denied! The appeal has to be submitted within 30 days.
How long is the first class medical certificate valid for?
The validity of the test is different for the different certificates. The first class medical certificate is valid for 1 year if you are below the age of 40, 6 months if you are aged 40 or older for airline transport pilot certificates. For a commercial pilot certificate, the validity is for 1 year regardless of age and lastly, for private pilot licenses, the validity is got 5 years if you are below the age of 40 and 2 years if you are aged 40 or older.
How do you get your medical certificate?
In order to get your medical certificate, you will need to contact an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner and they will have to examine you. You can find an Aviation Medical Examiner on the official FAA website (select AME in the drop-down menu). The process involves 3 steps:
- Book an appointment.
- Complete the official FAA application form via MedXPress
- Complete your physical exam with an Aviation Medical Examiner
Provided you fulfill the requirements and are deemed fit according to the medical standards, the Aviation Medical Examiner will approve your medical certificate.
We hope reading this has helped you get a better understanding of the first class medical and the process of getting it. If you have more questions about the requirements for becoming a pilot then feel free to head over to our frequently asked questions page for more answers!
Do you want to learn more about the different steps you need to take before becoming a pilot and get a deeper insight into the different career paths for a professional pilot? Then make sure to download our Airborne Magazine🛫