September 1, 2012
By Kathy Dondzila
On October 1, 2012, FAA discontinued use of the paper version of FAA Form 8500-8, the form that airmen use to apply for FAA medical certification. Airmen are required to apply electronically for medical certification, using FAA MedXpress, an online application capturing the same information that was on the paper form 8500-8.
MedXpress is on the Web and has actually been online since 2007, available for airmen to use as an alternative to the paper form. Prior to October 1, using MedXpress was optional. As of October 1, and thereafter, it is mandatory—it’s the only way an airman can apply for medical certification.
MedXpress is another step the Office of Aerospace Medicine is taking toward becoming paperless. It’s designed to expedite the processing of an applicant’s request for certification and shorten the visit with the AME. I hope it does that for you.
I used it, myself, to apply for my most recent medical certification in February, 2012. Overall, it worked well—I had only one problem at the very end. The questions are the same as on the paper form and the process is intuitive. I applied using my laptop, although smart phones and hand-held devices are also supposed to work. First of all, I needed to request an FAA Account, fill out the information and answer three security questions which would be used to verify my identify if I forgot my password or needed help. Just recently, a button has been added that applicants must click to acknowledge awareness of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights.
I received my confirmation and temporary password within two minutes, logged in to the MedXpress login page successfully, and changed my password to one I’d probably remember. I took their advice and wrote it down.
The familiar Form 8500-8 showed on the screen and I filled it out just like I would have if it had been paper. One thing I noticed and liked: If I was reporting a condition that I’d previously reported, there’s an option to choose PRNC (previously reported, no change), which made it easier than writing out the phrase each time.
After I was finished with the application, I followed the directions to submit it. I had to enter my password (I was glad I’d written it down!) in the place indicated. It says, “I’m done. Send my application to the FAA.” I clicked “Submit.”
MedXPress assigns each application a confirmation number when it has been successfully submitted. This is the number that the AME would need to find my application, so it’s important. I ran into a snag here: my application wouldn’t submit. I tried two or three times. Finally, I called the help number at the bottom of the page, thinking this would take forever. But, I was pleasantly surprised when a personable FAA staffer answered the phone right away and helped me identify the problem. Apparently, MedXpress works best using Internet Explorer, and I’d used another browser. After some cyber-wrangling, we were able to get my application submitted.
If you have questions or concerns about anything on the application, and want to have the AME review it before it’s sent, print it before clicking the “Submit” button and take the hard copy to your appointment. When you’re sure it’s ready for submission, you can go back online and submit it. You cannot make any changes to it after it’s been submitted.
My appointment with the AME was the next day. The whole process, including the trouble-shooting, took about three hours, so don’t wait until just before your appointment to fill out the application. Do it a day or two before you see the doctor—it will help keep your blood pressure normal.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
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