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Q&A: Flying with a Pacemaker

By Penny Giovanetti, D.O., Manager, Aerospace Medical Specialties Division
Source: FAA Safety Briefing, July/August 2017

Q. I want to start flying again after 30 years of flight inactivity. I am a healthy 80 year old male with a St. Jude pacemaker/defibrillator, the first one implanted in 2006, and lasting for nine years before a low battery necessitated a replacement. Now, for almost 11 years, the device has not been activated by any cardiac anomaly. Is there a possibility that I can get a 3rd class medical certificate with the device? I have a multi-engine instrument rating with about 1,500 hours logged.

A. I am sorry to say that unless the defibrillator function of the device is inactivated, you would not be eligible for a medical certificate. You may fly with a pacemaker as long as you are not totally dependent on it.

Send your questions to SafetyBriefing@faa.gov. They will be forwarded to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, without your name, and the answer will be published in an upcoming issue of FAA Safety Briefing.

Penny Giovanetti, D.O., received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a master’s in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Iowa and a doctorate from Des Moines University. She completed a 27-year career as an Air Force flight surgeon. She is board certified in aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. She is also a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and a private pilot.