New medical certification strategy helping to reduce backlog

April 27, 2006

New medical certification strategy helping to reduce backlog

The FAA's Aerospace Medical Certification Division is trying a new approach to substantially reduce the medical certification backlog - an approach AOPA has been advocating for years to help members get their special issuances more quickly. But the agency needs pilots' help to make that happen.

FAA Federal Air Surgeon Frederick E. Tilton this week agreed with AOPA that members should ask their aviation medical examiner (AME) to call their regional flight surgeon if they have a question about a medical condition.

"Previously, when AMEs had any doubt about a medical condition, they were told to defer the application," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "Now, they are being encouraged to check with their regions for possible approval over the telephone to issue the certificate before deferring to Oklahoma City. This could increase the number of pilots who can leave their AME's office with their medical certificate in hand."

But even if the AME has to defer the application to the regional flight surgeon, it would get back to the pilot sooner than if it had been deferred to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

"The regional flight surgeons have the authority to review and approve some deferred medical applications," Crump said. "Active involvement of the regions can have a positive impact on the queue of cases awaiting review in Oklahoma City."

AOPA visited the New England and Southern FAA Regional Flight Surgeon Centers in 2004 to observe staffing and workload levels.

Now, all of the regions are connected to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division through a central computerized record management system that enables the regional offices to handle more cases that would otherwise be deferred.

April 27, 2006