FAA takes modest step to improve special issuance medical process

August 19, 2004

FAA takes modest step to improve special issuance medical process

Building on earlier AOPA recommendations, Deputy Federal Air Surgeon Frederick E. Tilton on Monday announced the expansion of a program to simplify the reissuance process for certain first and second class special issuance (SI) medicals. The program, already in place for third class medicals, takes effect on September 7 and identifies 20 medical conditions that are serious enough to require special authorization but can be cleared by the aviation medical examiner (AME) after an initial review by the FAA. For pilots, this means that once an application requiring a special issuance for one of those conditions is reviewed and issued by the FAA, pilots then can go to their AMEs for a renewal, provide all of the necessary medical reports, and, if the condition hasn't changed, walk out with another special issuance - all in the same day. This program, originally implemented in 2002, was previously limited to the reissuance of third class SI medicals.

"This is a small step that will help those pilots who face certain special issuance renewals," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "It also continues the ongoing AOPA effort to address the bigger problem affecting our members who require special issuances, that being the delay in processing applications."

The AME-assisted special issuance (AASI) program is a direct result of the AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors' suggestions to the FAA in 2001 to authorize AMEs to issue some certificates that typically would have to be reviewed and approved by the FAA. The FAA compromised with AOPA and formed AASI in 2002, which gave AMEs the authority to reissue third class SIs for certain conditions.

AOPA will continue to work with the FAA on short- and long-term projects to reduce medical certificate processing delays that can ground pilots for months before they receive a special issuance. "We have a close relationship with the FAA, which, in conjunction with pilots, physicians, and AMEs, gets the credit for the expansion of AASI by working together to make this program successful," said Gary Crump, director of AOPA's Medical Certification department.

The FAA Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City receives thousands of applications and medical reports for review each day, and they process about 450,000 per year. Pilots can send in their application and medical records 90 days in advance, but that doesn't guarantee they will receive a new SI before the other lapses.

AOPA's medical department is available to walk you through the medical certification and special issuance process, answer questions, and track your application's progress through the system. A list of the 20 conditions under AASI is available online.

August 19, 2004