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How to Speed Your Medical Certification

by Paul Engstrom, Aviation Writer

Poor weather, a harried work schedule, mechanical failures. All kinds of unavoidable glitches threaten to ground you.

So why let slow medical certification, one thing that often is avoidable, keep you down, too?

Even if your health isn't 100 percent, a bit of forethought and legwork ahead of your next visit to an aviation medical examiner (AME) can make this chore a lot quicker and easier, and put you back in the sky sooner.

Of course, some bureaucratic delays are inevitable, given that about 2,000 medical-certificate applications arrive at the Federal Aviation Administration office in Oklahoma City, Okla., each day.

But expert sources, including Dr. John D. Hastings, an AME in Tulsa, Oklahoma; David Hale, director of Pilot Medical Solutions, Inc. (, also in Tulsa; Virtual Flight Surgeons ( and the Office of Aerospace Medicine at the Federal Aviation Administration ( offer these helpful tips:

  • Get medical advice before the exam. Advice is legal and often free from both commercial and noncommercial sources.
  • Don't undergo an exam if you suspect you're not medically qualified. It may be faster and less troublesome in the long run to let the medical certificate lapse and nurse yourself back to health than to fight for a reversal of the FAA's denial of your application, which can take months.
  • For the same reason, gather all documents supporting your fitness to fly before the exam. An example of such documents is a letter from your doctor indicating that a medical condition has been treated and resolved. Anticipate questions from the FAA! You can even download the 8500-8 application form (at free of charge to review what information the AME will expect you to provide.
  • Build a long-term relationship with one AME. A physician who is familiar with your medical history is more likely to schedule an appointment on short notice, answer your questions on the phone and go to bat for you if a snag arises.
  • When a medical condition is at issue, a call from your AME to one of the FAA's nine regional flight surgeons may shave months off the application process.
  • Get lots of rest before the exam and avoid stimulants, like coffee, tobacco or certain medications, that may boost your blood pressure. Meals high in sugar could raise a red flag, diabetes, in the urinalysis.
  • Don't leave items unchecked on the medical-certificate application. If you fail to answer 'yes' or 'no' to questions about previous convictions or driving under the influence of alcohol, for example, approval will be delayed.
  • If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, be sure to bring them to the exam.
  • Make copies of all documents in case the FAA  'misplaces' them.

When he isn't flying, Paul Engstrom writes and edits from Sebastopol, Calif.

The information contained herein is meant for informational purposes only. Neither IFA, nor Paul Engstrom assume any responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information given in this article. You are proceeding at your own risk. It is strongly advised that you seek the opinion and advice of a qualified aviation medical examiner and appropriate medical physician for any medical needs you may have.

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