FAA Medical

I was worried about this go around of my FAA Medical because of the following new things that came up since my last visit to the AME 3 years ago:

  • Diagnosed with a benign heart arrhythmia — atrial premature contractions (APCs)
  • Started on blood pressure meds since the last medical
  • Also started on cholesterol meds too

I thought the first one was going to be the kicker (it wasn’t). The process wasn’t as bad as I had thought with much help from reading all that AOPA had to say about the subject. Here’s some tips that I learned…

Starting new meds and ‘the letter’: The FAA and your AME are going to look carefully at all new medications you start since your last exam. You’ll need an open letter from your normal doctor to your AME that says, amongst other things: what condition you have been diagnosed with, what the treatment is including meds and dosages, your response to the treatment, side effects, and a statement of limitations (or lack there of). AOPA has a good article with details on what the letter needs to say, but I found it much too verbose to give to my doctor. I’d suggest summarizing it down to short bullet points so your doctor doesn’t miss something important when writing it.

Have copies of test results: Whenever your doctor performs any test (blood, EKG, etc), make sure you get a copy of the results and/or interpretations and show them to your AME. If you are being treated for something ongoing (i.e. my BP and cholesterol meds), then schedule your AME visit to coincide shortly after a routine check-up with your doctor. Use this check-up to get your letter and also make sure your doctor orders any tests to confirm the lack of side effects and/or positive control of the condition. Your AME will likely need these recent (< 60 days old) test results for a passing exam.

In my case, I’m on a diuretic BP medicine which commonly causes potassium depletion as a side effect. My doctor claimed this version is potassium neutral, but this was insufficient for the AME and he required a test to prove it. Curiously, the AME would not order the test or arrange for me to get it through his office (I presume because he was not the treating doctor). Fortunately, all I had to do was call my doctor’s office and I was approved over the phone without too much hesitation. A quick visit to the laboratory office and 24 hours later I was able to get the results to my AME. And, time was indeed of critical importance …

Your AME has 10 days to complete the medical: If you don’t have all the results your AME requires, the FAA only allows 10 days from the exam date to complete the process. After that, the it must go to Oklahoma City as “incomplete” and you get scrutinized by the bureaucrats there. I’m told this takes a couple of months in the best case!

Use AOPA’s resources: The AOPA has detailed information about all of the meds and conditions that people are typically diagnosed with and what extra steps are likely to be required because of. It’s a great resource, but, I found it to be very conservative (overly pessimistic) in some areas …

About that arrhythmia: It was diagnosed 2.5 years ago. AOPA claimed it would likely require dealing directly with the FAA and jumping through their hoops. I had all the test results from the cardiologist that diagnosed it as benign. I didn’t, however, have the good sense to ask him to put this statement in writing as an open letter to my AME and when I recently asked him to do so (I even provided him a sample letter of the basic facts), he outright refused because I had no follow-up visits since then. There was no reason to — he told me it was benign! Fortunately, the arrhythmia only happens during exercize and does not show up on a resting EKG, which I was able to provide to my AME from the recent check-up. My AME wasn’t at all concerned about it; a total non-event.

After delivering the missing test result, I walked away with a third-class medical in hand.

3 comments to FAA Medical

  • matt

    Sir,

    I found your blog by googling “sample doctors letter faa” I am working on getting all of the stuff together to get my 3rd class medical (new student pilot) — I do have one medication that I take on a regular basis. I’ve spoken to the aopa and they didn’t seem to think that it would be that big of a deal, but that I would need a letter from my Doctor. You had mentioned in your article something about a sample letter on the aopa website. I’ve looked and can’t seem to find anything like that. Do you happen to have a link to it?

  • Matt —
    They don’t have a sample letter, but, they do have an article that discusses what the letter should and shouldn’t say. As mentioned above, it’s too verbose and I’d suggest summarizing it down to some bullet points that your doctor can use as an outline of the letter.

    AOPA is constantly changing their site (and the current design is terrible!), but here’s the current link (requires an AOPA member login).

    Good luck!

  • AOPA claimed it would likely require dealing directly with the FAA and jumping through their hoops……

    Thanks,

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