When you are a pilot applying for an aviation medical certificate for the first time, you may be surprised by the FAA’s list of disqualifying medical conditions. While psychosis and substance abuse may seem obvious, other conditions such as “disturbance of consciousness” can cause your application to be denied for unexplained reasons. Therefore, it’s important to understand what to expect during the application process and best practices for disclosing the medical issue to the FAA.
FAA Pilot Medical Regulations
Here is a list of the conditions that may disqualify you from getting an aviation medical certificate, according to the FAA:
- Angina pectoris
- Bipolar disease
- Cardiac valve replacement
- Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant
- Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
- Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of the cause
- Heart replacement
- Myocardial infarction
- Permanent cardiac pacemaker
- A personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts
- Substance abuse
- Substance dependence
- Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without a satisfactory explanation of the cause.
If you have a medical concern that appears on this list, all hope is not lost. According to The Balance Careers, several of the medical circumstances posted are manageable, and with evidence that it will not harm your piloting capabilities, the FAA may issue a special issuance medical. This waiver permits you to fly, although there can be further restrictions, such as not flying during particular circumstances or while on special medications.
The Definition of “Diagnosis”
The language on FAA Form 8500-8GG specifically mentions the word “diagnosis,” which seems to have a broader meaning than some applicants might realize. GlobalAir cites the case of Administrator v. Smith, specifically. In this case, the airman neglected to disclose several medications he was prescribed for potential depression and fatigue. And in response to Question 18(m) inquiring about depression, the airman indicated “no.”
After the aviation medical examiner issued a medical certificate, the FAA discovered the prescriptions and took issue, even though an official diagnosis of depression had never been made clear. The FAA withdrew all of the airman’s certificates. On appeal, he presented that he was unaware he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder because his doctors didn’t share their formal diagnosis, but the Board rejected this reasoning.
Tips & Best Practices for Disclosing Medical Issues
The last story illustrates why it’s vital to tell the truth when applying for an aviation medical certificate, but as we mentioned earlier in the post, having a listed condition doesn’t necessarily mean full disqualification. Here are four best practices to think about before you begin your application:
- Understand all potential outcomes. Fully educate yourself on the examination process and possible results. Talk with other pilots who have been through the process, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ultimately, the FAA wants to issue certificates to qualified pilots, and understanding the process helps prevent disqualification due to a misunderstanding.
- Bring as much documentation as you can find. Printouts from your doctor, receipts for your prescriptions, and even drug information from a pharmaceutical website can all be helpful when taking your examination. Why? When you are asked to elaborate on any given “yes” answer, you can offer accurate and exhaustive details.
- Prepare yourself physically. Get yourself into peak physical and mental condition before your examination. Dedicate yourself to appropriate cardiovascular and strength training exercises. Spend some time on mental exercises, as well, and get plenty of sleep.
- Be ready for any FAA follow-up. An open dialogue with the FAA is always to your advantage. Even if you determine you have no medical issues to disclose, the FAA may discover something that raises a red flag. Anticipate their questions, and provide thorough honest answers.