So, You Thought You Had a Current Medical?
Reprinted with permission of
FAA Aviation News
As a Safety
Program Manager in a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), I meet with
the aviation public at least twice every week. And while I only reach a
small segment of the aviators within our district, several years ago an
inordinate number of program attendees asked why they were no longer
receiving their monthly Aviation Safety Program Seminar announcement through
the mail. Since only the holders of a current medical receive the
announcement, which is mailed from Oklahoma City, my first question was
whether or not they had a current medical. When they responded 'yes' I knew
we had a problem.
checking their records on the FAA database, it was plain to see that their
most recent medical information had not reached Oklahoma City, and all of
these individuals had been to the same aviation medical examiner (AME) The
short version of this story is that this medical examiner 'resigned' as an
AME, but where did it leave the folks who went to him for FAA examinations?
Were they legal or not?
In the early
1990's, similar questions from pilots in southern Connecticut revealed that
an FAA designated medical examiner was performing medical examinations and
not passing along the files to Oklahoma City. The most ironic incident that
I uncovered was the AME who asked me about the status of HIS examination,
only to find that his examiner had not forwarded the file. Subsequent follow
up on the other pilots revealed the files were still 'sitting' in the
medical examiner's office, while the unsuspecting pilots were flying with no
record of their examination on file with FAA. The doctor was removed as an
examiner, but countless pilots were left in limbo as to the status of their
Why is this a
problem, you might ask? Well, the answer is very simple. Should these
unfortunate individuals have been involved in a fatal aircraft accident and
have the only valid copy of their medical on their person, it may or may not
be discovered by the accident investigators. And, if it weren't, the
investigation would likely conclude that the individual was flying with an
outdated medical certificate. Could this affect the insurance or liability
claims? I think so!
incidents happened back in the 1990's, why am I bringing it up
now'especially with the new computerized system of filing medicals?
heard of another incident in the Washington, DC area when a pilot was
applying for a security clearance to get out of Hyde Field in Maryland (one
of the three remaining restricted airports). When the FAA safety inspector
pulled up his records, it showed that the pilot didn't have a current
medical. This was odd because the inspector had seen the copy of his medical
when the pilot had come in to fill out the paperwork. What had happened? In
this case the AME had moved to a new office days after the flight physical
was completed. In the confusion of the move, the medical information was
never transmitted to FAA. Fortunately, the pilot had no plans to fly any
time soon, because it took three weeks to locate the missing papers and have
them forwarded to Oklahoma City. However, for several months the pilot
thought he was legal to fly. He was fortunate that nothing happened.
pilot's know that their FAA medical is on file? At one time, unless they
happen to tune in to the fact that they have stopped receiving their FAA
Safety Seminar schedule each month, they would have to ask an FAA safety
inspector to check it out for them. However, now airmen are able to look it
up themselves by going to the FAA's web site. You just fill in the required
information, and the site will tell you what certificates you hold and the
date of the last medical Oklahoma City has on file. Medical information is
derived from the records of the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI).
If the medical dates are incorrect, you can contact the CAMI at
964-4821. The airmen inquire site can be found by
Let's go back
to the accident scene and the only record of the poor pilot's medical
examination has gone up in flames with the aircraft. What could the pilot
have done to protect his/hers family against liability claims and the
possible voiding of the insurance policy? Some pilots keep copies of their
logbook showing their endorsement and currency history in a file at home in
case something happens to the originals. It might be a good idea to also
keep copies of your most recent medical and pilot certificates with them.
This way, if something happens to the originals, you will at least have a
copy until you can replace them. Also, in the event that the worst happens,
your family might need them to prove you were current and legal.
thought you had a current medical. Are you sure? If you think there is a
problem, check the FAA web site to see if the date listed is that of your
most recent medical. If not, check with your AME and find out what happened.
Robert Martens is the
Safety Program Manager at the Windsor Locks (CT) FSDO.