What is Required to Get a Medical?
A medical certificate is required by the FAA for one to exercise the privileges of a pilot’s license. Although you can begin your training without one you must have one by the time you fly solo- a feat usually accomplished within the first 20 hours of training.
The process for obtaining your medical certificate is straightforward and painless for the most part. The first step is finding an Aviation Medical Examiner near you and setting up an appointment for your physical. You can use the FAA’s website here: http://www.faa.gov/pilots/amelocator/ to find a list of all AMEs in your area.
Once at the doctor’s office you will be required to fill out a form on your health history, including items such as past illnesses, surgeries, current medications and medical conditions, etc. Once the form is completed expect to be able to supply a urine specimen for analysis, and if you are over the age of 40 an EKG will be performed. The EKG is completely noninvasive and painless, and you will not be required to submit a blood sample so don’t bother freaking out about needles.
Once in the exam room things proceed like any other physical- a nurse will take your vitals first, then the doctor will come in and listen to your breathing, check your equilibrium/balance, hearing and vision. Remember- it is OK to have glasses or contacts but your vision must be corrected to 20/40 near and distant with some type of lenses. Once the doctor is satisfied that you’re healthy and you have no limiting medications or conditions you will be issued your medical certificate. As a part of this medical certificate you will also want a student pilots certificate as well. The medical and student pilot certificate are both on the same piece of paper, but be sure to make it clear that you want both when you make your appointment.
With medical in hand you are now able to fly solo once your flight instructor signs you off!
A note on the classes of medical certificates:
As a student pilot earning your private pilots license and even once you are a private pilot, the highest class of medical you will need is a third-class medical certificate. If you move on to earning your commercial pilots license then a second-class medical certificate is required to exercise the privileges of that new certificate. If you take your training all the way and earn your Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP) a first-class medical is required to exercise the privileges of that new certificate. If you anticipate a career in aviation and think you will be earning your ATP or commercial someday you may want to get a first or second class medical from the get-go, to avoid any surprises in the future. It would be a shame to make it through your training and earn your license only to find you can’t hold a first-class medical certificate and won’t be able to fly commercially, if that is your ultimate goal.
Types of medical certificates and their uses:
Required to: exercise the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate.
Required for: commercial, non-airline duties (e.g., for crop dusters, corporate pilots). Those exercising the privileges of a flight engineer certificate, a flight navigator certificate, or acting as air traffic control tower operator must hold a second-class airman medical certificate.
Required to: exercise the privileges of a private pilot certificate, recreational pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate, or a student pilot certificate.