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You Asked, We Answered

Your Top BasicMed Questions

By Jennifer Caron
Source: FAA Safety Briefing July/August 2017

BasicMed Begins — These two small words have so much meaning for me and my fledgling aviation career. Did you know that a fledgling is a young bird learning to fly? Well, that’s me. But in this case, I’m a young bird with medical issues — and I’m planning to one day switch from my “driver’s license medical” under the sport pilot rules to a third-class medical flying as a private pilot. BasicMed now affords me the option to choose between flying with a medical certificate, or operating under BasicMed. However, like many of us in the GA community I have some questions, both general and specific.

To get the answers, I took a look at the FAA’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. Although it’s an extensive list of FAQs, updated regularly as more and more questions come in, I wanted to find out which questions are the most common, and the most shared, by pilots who want to fly under BasicMed. I went straight to the experts, and met with the FAA’s BasicMed team.

Here’s a list of the top 20 BasicMed questions, answered by the FAA’s BasicMed experts, that I’d like to share with you.

The Basics

Do I Qualify for BasicMed?

You probably qualify for BasicMed; nearly all pilots do! You will need the following:

  • A current and valid U.S. driver’s license.
  • A valid FAA medical certificate, held at any point after July 14, 2006. If that medical certificate was associated with special issuance, the expiration of the special issuance must be after July 14, 2006. Your most recent medical certificate must not have been suspended or revoked, and any special issuances must not have been withdrawn, and if you’ve since applied for another medical certificate, that completed application cannot have been denied.
  • For pilots who have ever had certain mental, cardiac, or neurological health conditions, you will need a one-time only, special issuance medical certificate for that condition. If you already got a special issuance for that diagnosis, then you don’t have to get another one. But if you haven’t had a special issuance for that condition, and you currently have, or you are newly diagnosed with, one of the cardiovascular, neurological, or mental health conditions described in the list of special conditions, you may not use BasicMed until you have been found eligible for special issuance of a medical certificate. For the list of special conditions, see Medical Conditions Requiring One Special Issuance.

Student Pilots

I’m new to aviation, can I use BasicMed?

As a student pilot this question is near and dear to my heart. But, I’m sorry to say if you have never held an FAA-issued airman medical certificate, you do not qualify for BasicMed. Since every BasicMed pilot will need to have held a medical certificate at any time after July 14, 2006, you will need to get one, FAA medical certificate to qualify. However, for those of us who have, or have previously held, an FAA-issued airman medical certificate issued at any point after July 14, 2006, you’re good to go.

Flight Instructors

Can I exercise my flight instructor certificate when acting as pilot in command (PIC) under BasicMed?

“Yes, but the key term here is PIC,” explains Brad Zeigler, FAA Aviation Safety Analyst and contributing expert on the BasicMed Advisory Circular, AC 68-1A. “An individual may only operate under BasicMed when acting as PIC of an aircraft that is covered under BasicMed,” says Zeigler.

The bottom line is you can exercise your flight instructor certificate as PIC under BasicMed, as long as you are flying a covered aircraft (an aircraft that meets the BasicMed requirements). To see the provisions for a covered aircraft, visit the Aircraft Requirements section at www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/.

Zeigler goes on to say, “in case you were wondering whether you can accept compensation for flight instruction while operating under BasicMed, the answer is ‘yes,’ you may. The FAA generally considers the compensation associated with flight instruction as compensation for teaching, not for flying.”

Safety Pilots

Can I use BasicMed to act as a safety pilot, instead of holding a medical certificate?

Again, the key term here is PIC. You can use BasicMed while performing the duties of a safety pilot, but only if you are also acting as the PIC. Confused? To clarify, I turned again to Zeigler to shed more light on this topic. “Congress specified that BasicMed applies only to those who are acting as PIC,” says Zeigler. “If you are not acting as PIC, you cannot use BasicMed in lieu of a medical certificate.” In this case, a safety pilot is considered a required flight crewmember, and a flight crewmember is required to hold a medical certificate. If the flight crewmember is not acting as PIC, he or she cannot utilize BasicMed. The safety pilot in this instance requires an FAA-issued airman medical certificate,” explains Zeigler.

Practical Tests

Can I use BasicMed privileges to take an Airline Transport Pilot practical test?

Yes, you can, as long as you are flying in a covered aircraft (an aircraft that meets the BasicMed requirements) for that practical test. A person taking any FAA practical test is exercising no more than private pilot privileges because the conducted operation is not for compensation or hire, so they can fly under BasicMed.

Third-Class Medical Holders

Is the third-class medical application similar to the Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC) for BasicMed?

Yes. The CMEC is derived from the same exact form used to apply for a FAA medical certificate. It has many of the same questions, and the exam includes the same items. The significant difference is that a state-licensed physician performs a BasicMed comprehensive examination, while an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), using standards specified in part 67, performs the FAA-issued airman medical exam.

I just completed a third-class medical exam and received a third-class medical certificate. Can I skip the BasicMed comprehensive medical exam, and just use my third-class medical certificate to qualify for BasicMed?

In this case, the answer is no. “The congressional mandate that authorizes BasicMed,” Zeigler cites, “did not allow for an exam, associated with an FAA-issued medical certificate, to substitute for a BasicMed comprehensive medical examination.”

But can I be examined by my AME for BasicMed, and for a FAA medical certificate at the same time?

Yes. An AME can elect to conduct a comprehensive medical examination for BasicMed in the same visit as an examination for an FAA-issued medical certificate. As Zeigler explains, “while a BasicMed comprehensive exam is outside the scope of an AME’s official duties as a representative of the FAA, they may conduct the BasicMed physical exam and sign the CMEC by virtue of being a state-licensed physician, and the exam may be conducted concurrently with an exam for a medical certificate.”

I already have a third-class medical certificate. Can I fly under BasicMed at the same time?

Yes, you can. “BasicMed does not replace a third-class medical, and you can qualify for both at the same time. You do not lose one certificate in favor of another one. BasicMed is an alternative to the third-class medical, it is not a fourth class medical,” Zeigler clarifies. “But,” Zeigler advises, “you have to choose one for each flight; you can’t switch from BasicMed to using your medical, or vice-versa, in mid-flight.”

For dual BasicMed and third-class holders, after your third-class expires after two years, you can continue to fly under BasicMed for up to 48 months from the date of the comprehensive medical exam.

Do I need to keep my expired, paper medical certificate?

It’s not required, but it’s a good idea to keep it. Quick tip — take a picture of it with your phone, or scan it into your computer files.

Types of Doctors

What kind of physician can perform the BasicMed medical exam?

A BasicMed CMEC requires a state-licensed physician to conduct the medical exam, and that physician must be the signatory on the CMEC.

The FAA relies on the determination of each state, territory, and U.S. possession as to which persons it will license as physicians. If the person holds a license as a physician issued by any state, territory, or possession, then that person meets the requirement as a state-licensed physician.

But can a physician extender (such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant) conduct the BasicMed exam?

A physician extender is a health care provider who is not a physician but does perform some medical activities typically done by a physician. Physician extenders are generally nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Registered nurses, medical technicians, and medical support personnel also assist with certain elements of an examination, but they are not considered to be physician extenders. Section 2307 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (FESSA) regulation on BasicMed did not specifically exclude participation by a physician extender, however under BasicMed, the physician is responsible for conducting the medical examination, and the physician must be the signatory on the CMEC.

How do I find a doctor?

A BasicMed CMEC requires a state-licensed physician to conduct the medical exam, and a physician that is familiar with your complete health history is a good choice. Many physicians are familiar with examinations similar to the BasicMed exam, as in physician’s examinations for sports or exercise, a return to work clearance, or a scuba-diving physical.

BasicMed encourages you to have an open dialogue with your doctor.

Special Issuance

I had a special issuance in the past. When do I need to get another one?

You need to undergo the FAA process for special issuance if you newly develop (or have never held a special issuance for) any of the following medical conditions since the last time you received a FAA medical certificate:

Mental Health: (i) personality disorder severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts, (ii) psychosis, (iii) bipolar disorder, and (iv) substance dependence within the previous two years.

Neurologic: (i) epilepsy, (ii) disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause, and (iii) a transient loss of control of nervous system functions without satisfactory medical explanation of the cause.

Cardiac: (i) myocardial infarction (heart attack), (ii) coronary heart disease that has required treatment, (iii) cardiac valve replacement, and (iv) heart replacement.

Where do I find more information on BasicMed Special Issuance Medical Certificates?

For more information on the conditions requiring special issuance, visit www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/. For more special issuance FAQs and answers, visit www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/media/basicmed_faq.pdf.

Medical Questions

What’s an acceptable blood pressure to fly under BasicMed?

Consult your physician for answers to all your medical questions. It is up to your doctor to use his or her best judgment. Keep in mind that BasicMed is not a medical certificate.

The CMEC Form

Here’s a quick tip. You must print out your completed CMEC. The CMEC is a worksheet between you and your doctor. It is not submitted to the FAA.

Another tip — make sure your doctor’s handwriting on the CMEC is legible! I know, I know, sometimes your doctor’s handwriting can look like ancient Sanskrit at times, but ask your doctor to print legibly their name, address, and state license number on the form. You will need to enter the physician’s name and state license number later when you complete the process for printing your BasicMed course completion certificate.

Best practice — keep the completed, signed CMEC in your file cabinet, or better yet, scan it into your computer.

The Course Completion Certificate

I’ve mislaid my BasicMed course completion certificate. Can I still fly under BasicMed?

Unfortunately, no. Even though you don’t have to have your BasicMed Course Completion Certificate or your CMEC with you when you fly, if you lose either of these documents, you may not fly under BasicMed. It’s a great idea to hold on to both forms for safe keeping — file away the hard copies, or scan both into your computer.

7-Seater Aircraft

My PA-32 (Piper Cherokee Six series aircraft) is “authorized to carry not more than six occupants” because it used to have a seventh seat in the back, but that seventh seat hasn’t been installed in 40 years. Can I fly my Cherokee Six using BasicMed?

The FAA BasicMed team has provided detailed information on aircraft authorized by type certificate to be equipped with both six and seven seats, and whether or not these aircraft are considered covered aircraft under the BasicMed requirements. Visit the main FAQ page at www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/media/basicmed_faq.pdf for details.

Can I Ask the FAA BasicMed Experts?

Yes! Send your questions by email in writing to 9-awa-afs-basicmed@faa.gov. In less than a week, you will receive an answer from the FAA headquarters’ team of BasicMed experts. Please note that the FAA team cannot provide medical or legal advice, or provide responses to hypothetical, “what if ” scenarios.

As BasicMed begins, and continues forward as another medical qualification along with the traditional FAA medical certificate, I am confident in the knowledge that one day, I will progress from fledgling student to private pilot — with the option to fly under BasicMed!

Learn More

Take a look at the BasicMed Advisory Circular - www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/AC_68-1A.pdf

Find the FAA Pharmaceuticals (Therapeutic Medications) Do Not Issue – Do Not Fly list - www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/pharm/dni_dnf/

See medical facts for pilots in Chapter 8 of the FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM 8-1-1) - www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/

Jennifer Caron is an assistant editor for FAA Safety Briefing. She is a certified technical writer-editor, and is currently pursuing a Sport Pilot Certificate.