FAA Updates its Policy for Special Medical Flight Tests

Some examiners may be eligible to offer these rides.

Some DPEs may now be authorized to give special medical flight tests.Piper Aircraft

Many people have learned to fly with medical anomalies that years ago would have instantly disqualified them; hearing issues and color blindness are two of the most familiar. The work around is to apply for a waiver of the standard medical certificate as laid out in FAA Order 8900.1. In addition to making certain a waiver applicant meets specific health requirements, the agency also demands a special medical flight test (SMFT) to ensure the applicant can operate the aircraft itself, also known as a statement of demonstrated ability (SODA). SODAs are typically valid for 24 months. Until recently, the only way to complete the required SMFT and SODA was through a safety inspector from the local FSDO. COIVD-19 has added another element of difficulty to SMFTs because FSDOs are short-staffed and travel-budget restricted.

During the week of March 8, the FAA Flight Standards Division in Washington, DC, issued a memorandum to authorize the next best thing to a FSDO inspector—a designated pilot examiner—to conduct SMFT rides. The FAA memo, “Deviation for Special Medical Flight Tests,” requires both the FSDO inspector—now known as the managing specialist—and the DPE follow a number of guidelines.

The managing specialist must ensure the DPE is capable of evaluating the applicant and has been trained on FAA policy, procedures, and PIC responsibilities when reviewing the application for an SMFT, such as keeping their DPE credentials current and ensuring the designated examiner is trained on how the necessary paperwork should be uploaded to the FAA computer system. The agency contact person for questions about this new procedure is Al Gil at alvaro.gil@faa.gov.