Frequently Asked Question
Have more questions?
We know you have questions, and for the most part, we have the answers. Our most commonly asked questions are listed below. Of course, if your question isn’t among these, you can always contact us.
Of course not! This is one of the most common medical problems pilots face, and is one of the easiest to handle with the FAA. All the usually prescribed anti-hypertension medications in current use are approved by the FAA. The AME may issue a certificate if the treating physician provides a brief hypertension evaluation report which documents the medications used, their dosages, whether there are any adverse effects or any complications of the hypertension itself. This report must contain a recent blood pressure reading (no higher than 155/95) and also whether there are other medical condition being treated.
Lab tests and electrocardiogram (ECG) are not required unless the treating physician believes it is important to do so. A follow-up current status report is required at the time of renewal of the next medical for Class III pilots, and annually for Class I and II pilots. In reality, these reports are no more than what a good doctor should be doing anyway! Of course, it is best if the pilot presents these reports to the AME at the time of the examination to avoid any delay in issuing the certificate.
To make it easier, we have created a hypertension worksheet that the treating physician can fill out instead of a typed report, Hypertension Evaluation Worksheet to download.
For Class I and III, it depends on the age of the applicant at the time of the exam. If the applicant is under the age of 40 at the time of the exam, the Class I certificate is valid for one year and Class III for five years; if over the age of 40, it is 6 months and two years respectively.
For pilots over 35, an ECG is required for Class I, and then annually after the age of 40; these must be performed at the AME’s office and transmitted to the FAA electronically. Vision standards are also different between private and commercial categories. For example, a Class I or Class II pilot needs to be able to see 20/20 in each eye (corrected if needed) for distant vision, while a private pilot can get by with 20/40 vision. Commercial pilots over the age of 50 are also required to demonstrate intermediate vision of at least 20/40, in addition to the near vision requirements, which are the same (20/40) for all classes. Commercial pilots also must demonstrate reasonable depth perception by measuring eye alignment.
Yes, but the imposed limitations depend on the severity of the color vision deficiency. If the applicant fails the color vision screening test in the AME’s office, the certificate will state “Not valid for night flight or by color signal”. This give the pilot the opportunity to at least fly daylight with intact radio communications (when required) until such time the applicant opts to take – and passes – the Operational Color Vision Test (OCVT). For Class I and II, there is an additional Medical Flight Test (MFT) requirement.
Most color deficient pilots can pass the OCVT, and when they do, the FAA sends a Letter of Evidence (LOE), which means the pilot does not have to take a color vision screening tests at future flight physicals. The FAA also sends a corrected medical certificate with the color vision restriction removed. However, if the pilot cannot pass, the color vision limitation remains on the medical certificate. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful that an airline would hire such a pilot for commercial flying.
The FAA takes any form of substance abuse or dependence very seriously. If a pilot is arrested for a DUI, he or she must report this to the security division of the FAA within 60 days of a conviction. Any ARREST (even without conviction) must also be reported on the next flight physical application. The AME is then required to assess whether the pilot might have a problem with alcohol. This includes obtaining the arrest and court records, and a copy of the plots DMV records from every state in which the applicant has had a driver’s license. The AME may then issue the medical certificate if evidence supports this to have been an episode of alcohol misuse only, unless the following is true:
1. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher
2. History of two DUI arrests within 10 years
3. Lifetime history of three or more DUI arrests
It therefore makes sense that any pilot or student pilot applicant should contact their AME well in advance of their flight physical to minimize delays in certification. If any of the above three criteria are met, then FAA will require the applicant to undergo a high quality Substance Abuse Evaluation, before further consideration can be undertaken. If the pilot is determined to have an alcohol abuse or dependence diagnosis, further assistance from a HIMS – designated AME will be necessary to facilitate Special Issuance consideration.
There are basically two different kinds of depression. Situational depression (Adjustment Disorder) occurs to normal and mentally healthy people, when they find themselves in depressing situations. As long as the individual has resolved their depression and is no longer requiring medications after a “reasonable” period of time, the FAA will likely certify, based on a favorable current psychiatric evaluation. (Although this evaluation may come from a non-psychiatrist if the applicant has been treated by his or her own health practitioner – as long as the report is thorough.)
The other kind of depression (recurrent or chronic) may require ongoing medication for the person to feel well, along with regular or periodic counseling therapy. In the past, the FAA has considered this diagnosis to be disqualifying, whether or not the applicant was using prescription anti-depressant medications. Fortunately, in 2010, the FAA began allowing pilots to use one of four allowable antidepressants, called SSRI’s, and become medical certified after an in depth evaluation.
The FAA has made it easier to different between these two different categories. Guidance for pilots and AME's can be found here: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/app_process/exam_tech/item47/amd/
All over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping aides are actually antihistamines, have a very long half-life, and should be avoided for up to 60 hours after ingestion. In some people, cognitive effects can last even longer. The FAA has approved two short-acting prescription sleep aides, but with two important restrictions. First, they should not be used more than 1-2 times per week, as habituation can easily occur. Secondly, there are required waiting periods between ingestion and flight. Ambien has a 24 hour waiting period, and Lunesta has a 30 hour waiting period. Of course, individual variations can occur, and pilots should “ground test” them before using them prior to a planned flight.
For further details about other sleep medications, please see: http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/pharm/sleepaids/
However, if you are being treated by "watchful waiting", which is when surgery or radiation therapy is not being done, you may possibly be eligible under CACI.
Although some pilots may use Sport Pilot or BasicMed rules to avoid discovery of a disqualifying medical condition, by doing so they pose a risk to flight safety.