The FAA Medical

So, one of the requirements for a Private Pilot’s Licence is the successful completion of a medical examination administered by an FAA-approved Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Although the rules around the medical examination, especially the criteria for rejection and/or special issuances, are quite clear, a lot depends on the AME, your relationship with him/her, and his relationship with the FAA doctors in Oklahoma City.

There are quite a few AME’s within a few miles of where I live, but I decided I would go to Dr. John T. Phillipp who is an AME in Glendora, CA and is himself a pilot. I had read quite a few reviews about Dr. Phillipp and they were all positive. So, I decided to talk to him.

While talking to Dr. Phillipp, I realised that I would need a special issuance medical certificate because I have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Since untreated OSA can impact your ability to stay awake during the daytime hours, the FAA requires that all AME’s assess the patient’s OSA symptoms, the current treatment protocol and rely on a certificate from the patient’s doctor that states that the patient has no daytime sleepiness.

Whereas another AME might have used my OSA as a delaying tactic and asked for a whole host of reports, Dr. Phillipp was very clear in what he wanted. Better yet, he asked me to send in all the required paperwork related to my OSA ahead of time to him. That way, he said he would have the special issuance approval from the FAA before my face-to-face medical checkup and, in turn, that would allow him to issue my medical certificate during the visit, assuming that everything else was OK, of course.

So, I sent Dr. Phillipp all the papers he asked for, including the letter from my pulmonologist on Thursday afternoon. By Friday afternoon, he had obtained the special issuance authorisation from the FAA!

I scheduled my medical examination for a Saturday (yes, Dr. Phillipp’s office works weekends too). His office is small, but really efficient. The receptionist has obviously handled many FAA medical examinations before. She went through the initial tests quickly and then passed me on to Dr. Phillipp. His examination was thorough, but quick and within about 1 hour, I had my FAA 3rd Class Medical Certificate.

First Steps

As you folks probably know by now, I’m blogging my experiences while I work towards my private pilot’s licence for flying fixed wing aeroplanes. According to the FAA, the minimum requirements to obtain a Private Pilot’s Licence in the United States are:

  • Be at least 17 years of age.
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
  • Pass an FAA Medical Examination to obtain at least a Class III Medical Certificate.
  • Pass an FAA Knowledge Test (written examination / computer–based multiple choice test).
  • Obtain 40 hours of flight time to include 10 hours of solo flight.
  • Pass an FAA Oral and Flight Test (Check–Ride).

For me, the first two requirements are not an issue – I’m definitely over 17 years of age, and I can read, speak, write and understand English.