This post is brought to you by our partners at Wingman Med.
Regardless of your experience, training or occupation, if you fly airplanes, you need to show the FAA that you are medically safe to fly. For sport pilots, that is your driver’s license. Basic Med is an option for many. However, new pilots, professionals, and those who want more than BasicMed can offer, will need an FAA medical certificate. This process can be easy for some, intimidating for others, or even downright frightful for those with significant medical issues.
Overall, the process can seem fairly simple: fill out the online application (MedXPress), schedule your exam with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), and get your certificate. But like in so many other areas, simple does not mean easy. Rather than thinking of the FAA medical as “going to the doctor,” realize it is a physical examination. There isn’t much you can do about your past medical history. There may not be much you can do about what the AME finds during the exam. So beyond filling out MedXPress, choosing an AME and sitting for the exam, what can one do? You can prepare and have a plan.
The very basics of a plan are:
- Put your best foot forward. Do not show up to your exam with an acute illness or injury.
- Be prepared for questions. For any significant medical conditions, bring up-to-date documentation from your doctor that shows they are well controlled.
- Be honest. Addressing your problems openly with the FAA will dramatically increase the chances you will be able to keep your medical certificate in the long run and will probably reduce the amount of time it takes to get it in the first place.
The Devil Is in the Details
If you have any significant medical issues, the FAA will want to know about them. More than that, they will want to know that your health conditions do not pose a risk to you, your passengers, or bystanders on the ground. One of the best things you can do to prepare for your FAA medical exam is simply to have a good, consistent relationship with a primary care physician. If you and your doctor have a good grasp of what medical conditions you have now or have had in the past, what medications you take and why you take them, when and why you went to physicians or medical facilities, you probably have 90 percent of the information you need to pass your FAA medical exam. In fact, a well written note from a doctor who is familiar with your condition will avoid the majority of problems pilots encounter when it comes to getting their medical.
The challenge is packaging the information in a way that your AME and the FAA can process efficiently without resorting to supplemental information requests that could leave you grounded for months. Many times, pilots with the same medical conditions could receive their medical certificates on the day of their exam, receive their certificate after a lengthy review by the FAA, or even have their medical certificate denied or revoked. Most of that variation depends on how well they prepare the information to bring to their AME or to send to the FAA. That is where we come in.
The Best a Pilot Can Do Is Break Even
In a humorous take on the pilot profession, “Rules of an Aviator,” posted on atcmemes.com, says Rule No. 7 is: “The medical profession is the natural enemy of the aviation profession.” It is also commonly said that “the best you can do at a flight physical is break even.” While usually said in a joking manner, many a pilot would attest to the validity of these statements. We want to ensure that you at least break even—and get your medical. Who are we?
We are Wingman Med and we keep you flying! We are pilots and doctors with qualifications that allow us to address FAA medical certification challenges like no one else. Many doctors also fly, but what sets us apart is that we all started our careers as professional pilots and spent over 30 combined years with at least a mild degree of anxiety—OK, maybe fear—in the days leading up to our annual visits to the flight surgeon or AME. It doesn’t matter how healthy you are. It doesn’t matter if the doctor in question is a personal friend. Rule No. 7 is a constant and undeniable threat.
As pilots, the physicians of Wingman Med are combat tested Naval Aviators who have flown aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-5 Tiger, and SH-60 Seahawk. We have landed on aircraft carriers, conducted transoceanic crossings, flown across international borders around the globe, and even graduated from TOPGUN. Our FAA flight qualifications include ATP, CFII, and MEI. As doctors, not only are we AMEs, we have all completed dedicated specialty training in aerospace medicine—something that is extremely rare even among AMEs. We spent the same amount of time learning about aerospace medicine as your family physician did in their specialty training. Along with our training in aerospace medicine, we also have other medical board certifications, including family medicine and occupational medicine.
The Ability To See Both Sides
What sets us apart is that our vantage point as doctors is informed by decades of experience as professional pilots. Most doctors are well meaning and want to help people—even pilots! Not only that, the FAA is reasonable when it comes to medical flight standards. They will consider your case on an individual basis and for most medical conditions—even some that were disqualifying only a few years ago —it is still possible to get your certificate. Where most stumble is by misinterpreting the nuances of the FAA’s medical certification requirements or by failing to obtain or submit the right medical documents at the right time. We specialize in guiding pilots through that process. As pilots, we understand the imperative of maintaining your FAA medical certificate and the urgency of getting it back when you lose it. As doctors, we specialize in getting it done.
What Does Wingman Med Do?
Wingman Med is an aviation medical consulting service. In a sense, it is all in the name. In military aviation, pilots fly with a wingman to provide mutual support and make the mission more effective. The flight lead is generally responsible for planning the flight and directing the mission, while the wingman is there to help watch out for any inflight hazards and take care of the more mundane aspects of flying.
When it comes to obtaining your FAA medical exam, you are the flight lead and we are your wingman. When you are faced with a new diagnosis, or any issue affecting your FAA medical certificate, you have a lot to worry about. Your aviation career—whether as a profession or just for the joy of flying—is on the line. Navigating the FAA system can be difficult and time consuming. There is often a large amount of documentation you are required to submit and the process can involve multiple requests for additional information from the FAA. From start to finish, it can sometimes take six months or more from your visit to the AME to finally receive your certificate.
At Wingman Med, we specialize in taking the guesswork out of the medical certification process. You are responsible for making sure you stay healthy and keep up with any treatments recommended by your physicians or medical providers. You are responsible for gathering all the information that the FAA needs to determine that you’re safe to fly. But, just like a good wingman in the air, we are here to make sure you avoid anything that could threaten your goals. We make sure that everything you submit to the FAA is done right the first time so you stay in the air or don’t stay grounded any longer than absolutely necessary.
The Services We Offer
We do this in several different ways. Our blog discusses a variety of aviation-related medical topics. We post new articles every two weeks to keep pilots informed. We also have a medication search tool where you can look and see if there are any issues flying with your current medications, or new ones your doctor may recommend. Another tool on our website is a MedXPress simulator. For those who are new to the game, or returning from a long absence, you can use the simulator to get a preview of what questions the FAA will ask, re: the medical. There is also an option to have us review your answers and provide some feedback.
We are also developing a limited network of AMEs who are familiar with complex medical certification. They may not be nearby, but they could be worth the trip. Depending on where you live, just finding an AME, much less a good one, can be difficult. We know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to call multiple AMEs, only to find out that one retired, another moved, and a third stopped doing the exams, yet they are still listed in the FAA directory. We created the Pilot Doctors directory to solve that problem. By soliciting feedback from pilots and working with AMEs to confirm their current level of service, we have created the premier directory to help you find the best AME for you.
While we offer a free 15-minute consultation to any pilot, our premier service is a comprehensive consultation to guide you through the process of obtaining, or regaining, your FAA medical certification. With our service, you are not assigned to a supporting staff member. You will work directly with one of our physicians. We will have multiple discussions and review how you would answer the questions on MedXPress. We may request medical records to ensure we know exactly what you are dealing with. Then we will provide you with a personalized plan that lays out what you and your physicians need to do.
You use a checklist for every takeoff and landing. Why not use one for your FAA medical exam? We are with you to help answer any questions that you or your physicians may have in order to ensure that you are ready for your next FAA medical exam.
Navigating the FAA medical exam process can seem daunting and unpredictable, especially when faced with a new medical diagnosis or letter from the FAA. Unlike your pilot’s certificate, your medical certificate always has an expiration date. Our experienced staff is here to help you get your FAA medical certificate with efficiency and peace of mind. At Wingman Med, we are pilots helping pilots achieve FAA medical certification with confidence! Don’t stay grounded for longer than you have to. We keep you flying!