Top five dumb aviation medical examiner (AME) tricks

August 6, 2013

pps
Warren Silberman

Warren Silberman

  • Former Manager, FAA Aerospace Medical Certification 
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine 
  • Expert in Aerospace/Preventive Medicine 
  • Pilot since 1986

Well, fellow aviators, now that I no longer work for the FAA I can write about some things that may not have been very "appropriate" when I did. Not all aviation medical examiners are created equaI, and some do not act in the best interests of their pilots. When the AME doesn’t follow correct procedures in handling your application, the incorrect actions or inactions will usually result in your receiving a request from the FAA for more explanation and medical records, and your AME will receive an "error check" in his or her FAA file. This will result in aggravation for you and possible trouble for your AME. Here is a short list of the top five dumb things I have seen our AMEs do:

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  1. Not making sure the airmen adequately explain the "yes" checks on the medical history (Block 18): A "yes" response to any question in Block 18 requires some sort of explanation. As you may already know, if you reported the situation or medical condition in the past, you need only use the acronym "PRNC" (previously reported, no change.) I tell my airmen who are new to me that if they use “PRNC” they should at least give a short statement in the explanation box of the application as to what they actually previously reported. For example in the box that says previous surgery: "PRNC -> prior hernia surgery right groin, no complications.”
  2. Not giving a complete explanation for a physician visit in block 19: To avoid problems, be as short and specific in the block that asks for reasons for a physician visit. For example: instead of writing "skin cancer removal," use "removal basal cell skin cancer." Then, if necessary explain in more detail in the explanation area.

  3. Granting a medical certificate to an airman who checked "yes" to Block 13, which asks you whether you have ever had your medical certificate denied, suspended, or revoked:  This may be a "sour" issue for you to deal with and especially if you are seeing an AME for the first time. Have available any previous FAA denial letters, and especially any subsequent “issuance” letters so the AME will have a basis for determining if a medical can be issued at the time of examination.

  4. Not forwarding medical records to the FAA: This oversight is one of the most common reasons for delays in the issuance of your medical. Pilots incorrectly assume that their AME will forward any supporting documentation on to the FAA, but more often than not, they neglect to do this. I always tell my airmen that anything you send to the FAA should be sent by the pilot, and that copies should be retained by the pilot.Under the best of circumstances, delays in processing are the rule and not the exception, so you should be in control of the “chain of custody” of your medical records to the FAA. If the records fail to reach their destination (and even if you receive a “return receipt” confirmation, that doesn’t necessarily mean the records have been scanned into the aeromedical workflow system), you will eventually receive a  "request for additional information” letter.

    This oversight is one of the most common reasons for delays in the issuance of your medical. Pilots incorrectly assume that their AME will forward any supporting documentation on to the FAA, but more often than not, they neglect to do this. I always tell my airmen that anything you send to the FAA should be sent by the pilot, and that copies should be retained by the pilot.Under the best of circumstances, delays in processing are the rule and not the exception, so you should be in control of the “chain of custody” of your medical records to the FAA. If the records fail to reach their destination (and even if you receive a “return receipt” confirmation, that doesn’t necessarily mean the records have been scanned into the aeromedical workflow system), you will eventually receive a  "request for additional information” letter.
  5. Neglecting to perform an electrocardiogram on a first-class airman: By FAA regulation, an electrocardiogram must be performed on an airman upon the first examination after age 35 and then annually after age 40. If the AME doesn’t transmit the ECG and issues your certificate, you will hear from the FAA, so you should be proactive and remind the AME if you are due for the ECG. 

    By FAA regulation, an electrocardiogram must be performed on an airman upon the first examination after age 35 and then annually after age 40. If the AME doesn’t transmit the ECG and issues your certificate, you will hear from the FAA, so you should be proactive and remind the AME if you are due for the ECG. 

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