aviation medical examiner

What pilots should know about the FAA airman medical certification.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical examination process assures that pilots *requiring medical certification do NOT have any of the disqualifying medical conditions under 14 CFR Part 67 and that they meet all medical standards of the Class of certificate applied for.

*Note:  Persons exercising pilot privileges under BasicMed (or exercising any pilot privilege in a balloon or glider) are not required to hold a medical certificate.  


Types of Medical Certificates

There are Three types of medical certificates that require you to be seen by a designated aviation medical examiner (AME).  

  1. First Class (Airline Transport Pilot);
  2. Second Class (Commercial Pilot, Flight Engineer, Flight Navigator and Air Traffic Control Tower Operator-does not include FAA employee air traffic control specialists;
  3. Third Class (Private pilot or Recreational pilot).

All airman must meet the standards under 14CFR Part 67 for the certificate type that they are applying for.  As would be expected, there are additional requirements or standards for Class 1 & Class 2 certificate holders.  For example, in the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners Synopsis of Medical Standards  it can be seen that First and Second Class pilots are required to have 20/20 or better distant vision in each eye separately, with or without corrective lenses, whereas for private pilots the requirement is 20/40 or better.   In addition, although all pilots are required to be tested for near vision, only Class 1 & 2 pilots at age of 50 and older are required to have 20/40 or better intermediate vision.  For First Class pilots only, starting at age 35 and annually after age 40 an electrocardiogram (EKG) is required.   It is important to always consult the Guide for FAA updates and changes.


Duration of Certification

Is dependent on the type of certificate obtained (First, Second or Third class) AND your age.  If you are:

  1. Under age 40 both First class and Second Class certificates are good for 12 months, and the Third Class certificate is good for 60 months.
  2. Age 40 and over the First Class certificate is good for 6 months, the Second Class Certificate for 12 months, and the Third Class for 24 months.  
  3. Each type of airman certificate is valid until the last day of the month that it is issued.

Remember, when a certificate of higher class expires, it reverts to the lower class certificate for the remaining duration, depending on age.   For example an airman over age 40 who had a First Class certificate that expires after 6 months, his or her certificate would revert to a Second Class certificate for the remaining 6 months, then to a Third Class certificate for the 12 months that remain after that.


What type of certificate do you need to apply for?   According to FAA:

An applicant may apply and be granted any class of airman medical certificate as long as the applicant meets the required medical standards for that class of medical certificate.  However, an applicant must have the appropriate class of medical certificate for the flying duties the airman intends to exercise.

For example, an applicant who exercises the privileges of an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate must hold a first-class medical certificate.   That same pilot when holding only a third-class medical certificate may only exercise privileges of a private pilot certificate. Finally, an applicant need not hold an ATP airman certificate to be eligible for a first-class medical certificate.  FAA Guide for Aviation medical Examiners


 Once you get your medical certificate keep in mind:

An airman medical certificate is valid only with the original signature of the AME who performed the examination or digital signature of an authorized FAA physician (e.g., Regional Flight Surgeon, manager of the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, Federal Air Surgeon).

If you have additional questions regarding pilot medical certification please see the following for FAA pilot certification FAQs and answers.

If you have questions regarding General Aviation (*all civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services and non-scheduled air transport operations for remuneration or hire) search AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) for more information.  Can’t decide what type of certificate you need?  AOPA has a link comparing the difference between certificate types for certain category of pilots.  AOPA is a resource for pilots regarding flight & aircraft information, laws, advocacy, medical requirements, and much more.

*Wikepedia General Aviation

If you are in the New York City area and would like to book an FAA medical examination, we are located in College Point, Queens (15 minutes from Laguardia Airport and can be reached at 718-701-5949 or visit our website.  Please complete your initial application ahead of time at FAA’s MedXpress and bring your confirmation number with you at the time of your medical examination.

2 replies »

  1. Very concise, but detailed info on FAA medical certificates. Maybe in one of your future posts you can talk about SODA and special issuance. One more thing, where can we find the list of approved medications for pilots? Thanks