all you need to know

You need multiple certificates to fly an airplane. Medical certificates are a little-known criterion to the average aviator, but a topic that pilots are keenly aware of.

How to get a medical certificate

A pilot’s medical certificate is only issued by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). These FAA-cleared licensed physicians usually have a primary her practice that specializes in a particular medical area. In many cases the doctor himself is a pilot and accepts a pilot medical examination as bordering on the main discipline (although some his AME only accepts pilots). U.S. airline pilots are required to meet first-class medical qualifications. Pilots under the age of 40 must renew annually, and pilots over the age of 40 must renew twice a year.

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epaulettes and pilot's medical certificate.

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Aviation medical examinations check various health parameters. Distance vision should be 20/20 and intermediate and near vision should be 20/40. Airline pilots are allowed to wear glasses or contacts because they can artificially correct their vision. Ability to discriminate colors is tested, as is hearing at the speech level. Blood pressure and cardiac function are the final critical components of the trial. I’m 35 and need an ECG. Pilots take this exam every year after the age of 40.

medical regulations

There is a list of medical variables that disqualify an FAA medical certificate. Cardiac problems such as valve replacement or permanent pacemakers, as well as mental disorders, substance abuse and epilepsy are disqualified. The FAA maintains a list of conditions under which it will not authorize issuance of a medical certificate. However, there is a way to conditionally obtain a medical certificate.

Delta Airlines Airbus A220-100 in San Francisco.

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

The regulations allow special issuance of medical certificates. Special issuance may be granted for medications taken to improve partial color blindness or heart conditions. Special issuance is also given to pilots who have recovered from a major surgery or illness and were unable to receive medical care during treatment. A federal aviation surgeon at his FAA headquarters in Oklahoma City will authorize special issuance. These certificates take longer to process and may expire. Pilots take steps to avoid requiring special issuance, but health is often out of their control.

age and certification

A pilot can issue a Class 1 medical certificate even after reaching his 65th birthday. Airlines operating under Part 121 of the Code of Federal Regulations cannot employ pilots past this age. However, pilots over the age of 65 may fly under Part 135 (Charter and On-Demand Flight) but still require a first class certificate. The FAA does not impose an age at which pilots must stop flying, so pilots, regardless of age, are eligible for Class 1 medical care if they meet the criteria.


Airline pilots visit the simulator every year to hold their pilot’s credentials. Likewise, they visit an aviation doctor annually or semi-annually to keep their medical records up to date. The importance of aviation medical examinations for pilots cannot be overemphasized. A pilot’s ability to work depends on their fitness to pass this exam.

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