How To Get an FAA Medical Certificate

faa medical certificate

Close up of an airplane pilot forms and certificate. [Credit: Unsplash]

All pilots must obtain an FAA medical certificate before becoming a pilot. A medical certificate can be one of 3 classes, which provides different rights.

The process of obtaining a medical certificate is fairly simple. You’ll need to complete an application and then undergo a physical examination with an FAA-approved Aviation Medical Examiner.

Learn all about medical certificates for pilots, who needs one, how to obtain one and what to expect throughout the process.

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What Is a Medical Certificate for Pilots?

A medical certificate for pilots is one way that the Federal Aviation Administration maintains safety standards. By requiring that all aircraft pilots obtain medical clearance to fly, the FAA ensures that a medical emergency won’t lead to a collision or accident that harms passengers. 

The FAA Act of 1958 began requiring the medical sign-off for individuals to be pilots within the United States. Today there is a structured process for obtaining medical permission to fly, including specific ailments and conditions that would prohibit an individual from pursuing a pilot’s license.

FAR Part 67 lays out the Airman Medical Standards and Certification Procedures. But for the average person, these procedures and standards are challenging to understand as they include legal and medical language. That’s why we’ve provided this helpful guide to understanding the medical certificate.

Why Do Pilots Need a Medical Certificate?

You cannot operate an aircraft legally without a medical certificate. Requiring a medical certificate also ensures that no pilot will take to the air with a dangerous medical condition or ailment that could result in an unexpected accident or threaten the lives of others.

The medical certificate exam ensures you know important details about your health that could impact your ability to operate aircraft. Without it, you will not be able to earn your pilot’s license.

Requirements for Getting a Medical Certificate

The requirements of getting a medical certificate are fairly simple. Just be sure that you apply long before you hope to take your first solo flight because it could take a little while to complete the requirements.

  • Visit MedXPress to complete the FAA medical certificate application
  • Locate an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) in your area
  • Schedule an appointment with your local AME
  • Attend the appointment with the AME and answer the questions he or she asks during the exam

Disqualifying Factors for Getting a Medical Certificate

The Federal Aviation Administration will not issue a medical certificate if you have the following disqualifying factors or health conditions. However, if you can prove that these conditions are under control, you might still be able to obtain a medical certificate with conditional reporting periods where you get regular checks and care for your condition.

  • Angina pectoris
  • Bipolar disease
  • Cardiac valve replacement
  • Coronary heart disease that has been treated or even under treatment has been symptomatic or clinically significant
  • Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
  • Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of the cause
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart replacement
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Permanent cardiac pacemaker
  • Severe personality disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Substance abuse or dependence
  • Transient loss of control of nervous system function

If you suffer from one of these conditions, you should still meet with an AME to discuss your options or ways to prove adequate control over these conditions.

4 Steps for Obtaining a Pilot Medical Certificate

Obtaining a pilot medical certificate is fairly simple in that it only requires 4 steps. Just realize that the process still could take some time so you don’t want to put off completing this step toward earning your pilot’s license.

Step 1: Meet the Requirements for Each Certification Class

There are three classes of medical certification that provide different rights to the holder. Ideally, if you can medically, you should obtain a first-class medical certification so that your license has no exclusions. Here’s a look at each class.

  • First-class: airline transport pilot
  • Second-class: commercial pilot, flight engineer, flight navigator, air traffic control tower operator
  • Third-class: private/recreational pilot

The medical standards for first and second-class pilots are more stringent than those for third-class pilots. Before applying, review the medical standards to make an informed decision about the class to apply for based on your health.

Step 2: Meet the Testing Requirements

The FAA medical certification test includes 64 points. The first 20 require that the examiner reviews the applicant’s medical history. Items 21 to 58 are the thorough exam procedures for reviewing all faculties and abilities of the applicant. Items 59-64 provide a review of the exam and document the examiner’s findings.

The testing requirements are extremely thorough and designed to ensure that pilots are healthy and receive the medical care they need to remain healthy.

Step 3: Use MedXPress To Initially Apply

The medical certificate application is an online form through MedXPress. During this application, you’ll answer questions about your known medical history. The FAA provides a detailed guide about how to use the MedXPress website form and what to expect as far as the details and questions on the form.

When applying, be sure to use your full legal name and not an abbreviation or nickname. The information on your application must align with your personal identification documentation.

Step 4: Schedule Your Appointment

There are more than 6,000 Aviation Medical Examiners throughout the country. The FAA has a database of all approved medical examiners in your area. All you have to do is input your location and the type of examiner you’re seeking to find one near you.

Select an examiner and schedule a convenient appointment time that you’re certain you can attend.

FAA Medical Certificate: an Important Step to Becoming a Pilot 

You cannot earn your pilot’s license without an FAA medical certification. It’s an essential element of completing your training and embarking on your first solo flight. Begin the process of earning this crucial element of your pilot’s license now by following the steps listed above. To stay up to date on aviation news, Subscribe to FLYING Magazine.



What is required for FAA medical certificate?

To obtain an FAA medical certificate, you’ll need to complete the MedXPress application form and an exam with a certified Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

Can you be a pilot with a medical condition?

It is possible to become a pilot even with a medical condition by demonstrating adequate control over that condition. Some medical conditions will completely exclude you from earning a pilot’s license, while others simply require that you show control over that condition.

Can a student pilot fly without a medical?

 No, student pilots must obtain an FAA medical certificate before their first solo flight. You won’t be able to rent an aircraft or legally take to the skies until you obtain your medical certificate.

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