Good news: FAA extends first, third class medicals

July 23, 2008

Pilots under age 40 can save a trip to the AME. On July 24, the FAA will extend the duration of third class medicals from 36 calendar months to 60 calendar months (five years) and first class medicals from six calendar months to 12 calendar months for pilots under age 40.

“This is welcome news for the GA industry,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “AOPA supported the FAA’s move that makes it easier and more affordable for younger pilots to fly.”

Current and expired medical certificates are grandfathered under this rule.

For example, a pilot under age 40 who has a third class medical that would have expired at the end of July 2008 under the three-year limit is now good for another two years. In other words, the medical won’t expire until the last day of July 2010.

But what if you had let your medical expire? If you are under age 40, and the certificate was issued less than five years ago, it is now valid until the last day of the month, five years from its original issuance date.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you got your third class medical on Sept. 20, 2004, (and you were under the age of 40 at that time) but have not renewed it. Under the current rules, you haven’t had a medical since Sept. 30, 2007, and could not act as pilot in command. Now your medical is valid again and will remain valid until Sept. 30, 2009. Welcome back to the skies!

Pilots under 40 who have first class medicals won’t need to renew theirs for one year after the original date of issuance. After one year, it will revert to a third class medical.

So, what if you turn 40 during this new one- or five-year window? That won’t impact the duration of your medical. If you get your first or third class medical the day before you turn 40, it will still be valid for one year or five years, respectively.

Because medical certificates that have already been issued and those being issued within the next month won’t reflect the new regulatory language, pilots should print this card that shows the new duration rules and carry it with their medical at all times. The FAA does not intend to reissue certificates to airmen who applied before the new certificates become available.

AOPA’s medical certification staff handles about 20,000 pilot medical inquiries each year. To address members’ medical concerns, AOPA periodically meets in person with the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification staff in Oklahoma City, Okla., and the federal air surgeon in Washington, D.C. Because of this relationship, AOPA and the FAA have been able to advance and streamline the medical certification process for pilots.

Have questions? Give AOPA’s medical staff a call at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).