Getting Your Medical Certificate Before Flight Training

Posted on: 28 December 2018

Anyone who is considering attending aviation schools in the hopes of getting their pilot's license must first get their FFA medical certificate to prove they are in good health. Here is what you should know about the process.

What Is A Medical Certificate?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires anyone who wishes to fly to have an extensive physical. Obviously, flying a plane requires stamina and mental acuity, and a medical certificate will determine if you a fit to fly. This is important for both the pilot and any passengers as well as for the safety of others.

Who Performs A Pilot's Medical Examination?

You can't get a physical from just any doctor; the exam must be administered by an FFA-approved Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). You can search for an AME near you to schedule an appointment.

Who Needs A Medical Certificate?

Pilots who fly commercial passenger flights, cargo transport pilots, private pilots, recreational pilots, flight instructors, flight navigators, and student pilots must all hold a medical certificate. There are different standards for different types of pilots. Medical certificates may also be dependent on age, not just your general health and condition. The FAA doesn't have a mandatory retirement age, but commercial pilots are generally retired by their airline once they turn 65 years of age. Until the age of 40, pilots must pass a medical exam every five years. After that, they must pass a medical exam every two years to continue flying per the FFA, but individual airlines frequently have more stringent requirements than the federal government does. A person must be 16 years of age or older to get a medical certificate.

What Is Checked For A Medical Certificate?

An exam will include checking your vision as well as a hearing test and the general condition of your respiratory system. Your equilibrium will be tested, too. Extensive attention will be paid to your mental health. Prospective candidates cannot have any signs of psychosis, such as hallucinations; bipolar disorder; schizophrenia; or severe personality disorders as listed by the DSM-5, the book of mental health disorders.

A history of substance abuse will also be closely scrutinized. Both illicit and illicit drug usage, as well as alcohol use will be explored. Prospective candidates may not have any history of abuse in the two years prior to applying for a medical certificate. Neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, must not be present. Lastly, the cardiovascular system will be checked, looking for any signs of untreated heart disease or congenital conditions. Once the AME has conducted the physical, they will let you know whether you have passed or not.