Special issuance process made easier for heart patients

December 1, 2006

Special issuance process made easier for heart patients

Stethoscope

Pilots with heart conditions can soon say goodbye to the rigmarole associated with sending (and sometimes resending) their medical documentation to the FAA each year for a renewed special issuance medical certificate.

The FAA announced that aviation medical examiners (AMEs) will be able to renew third class medical certificates issued under authorizations for nine heart conditions - myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, coronary artery bypass, angioplasty, stent placement, tissue and mechanical valves replacements, atherectomy (removing plaque from artery), brachytherapy (reopening an occluded angioplasty), and Ross procedure (specialized heart valve surgery).

"Although the policy change sought by AOPA is now official, it may take a few months for pilots to receive the new letters of authorization from the FAA. Once they have the letters, they can take the necessary medical reports to their AME for reissuance of their medical certificates," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "Our goal has been for the FAA to expand the AME-assisted special issuance (AASI) program, making medical recertification faster for thousands of pilots with heart conditions."

AASI was the FAA's response to an AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors proposal dating back to 2001.

It will take a while to get this new part of the program up and running, so if your special issuance renewal time falls within the first six months of this year, you may still have to send your medical documentation to the FAA as before in order to receive a letter of authorization.

This authorization letter may be valid for up to six years, but you will still be required to provide your AME with periodic medical reports confirming that your condition is unchanged. The authorization letter will also detail exactly what information is needed for continued certification and the time frame in which that information will need to be submitted.

If the FAA recently reissued your special issuance certificate, your certificate may have been issued before these nine conditions were added, and you might not automatically be listed as eligible for the AASI program. But don't worry.

"All you will need to do is send a letter to the FAA asking for an amended authorization letter that places you under the AASI program," Crump said. "You can call us in the Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA for guidance on what should be included in that request."

If this is the first time you will be reporting a heart condition that is disqualifying, you will need to provide complete medical documentation to the FAA before you have an FAA physical exam. After the FAA reviews the medical records and clears your case, you will receive a letter authorizing your AME to conduct a physical examination and issue a medical certificate if you are found otherwise qualified.

January 12, 2006