Certification Tips

How to Minimize Problems with the Process

Certification Tips

The FAA's Aeromedical Certification Division has made substantial improvements in the processing of deferred medical applications. However, delays can still be lengthy if your aviation medical examiner (AME) doesn't issue a medical certificate at the time of the examination.

One of the most common reasons for delays in the issuance of a medical certificate is the lack of adequate documentation about your medical condition. Anytime you report something new on the FAA medical application, including a new medical condition or medication, or visits to health professionals other than routine office visits, you should have available for your AME at least a basic report from your treating doctor providing some background on the condition or medication that you're reporting.

Here are some additional suggestions that will help minimize the potential for delays when your next medical examination comes due:

  • Before you have your next FAA physical examination, take advantage of TurboMedical ®,, AOPA's online interactive medical application planning tool, to determine what supplemental information you may need for your next exam. If TurboMedical ®, flags any of your responses, you may want to speak with one of the medical certification specialists in the Pilot Information Center before you schedule the FAA exam. The specialists are available 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time at 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672).
  • Choose an aviation medical examiner who will be your advocate. In many cases, the AME can call the FAA in Oklahoma City or the Regional Flight Surgeon for assistance that might result in an office issuance, or at worst, only a brief delay before your medical can be issued. You can search the AME database.
  • Retain copies of all documentation you send to the FAA. Records can and do get "misplaced" from time to time. Also, make sure your name, address, date of birth, or the FAA PI# if you have one, is on each page.
  • Use express mail for overnight delivery. This insures tracking of the records and notification of delivery.
  • Organize records neatly. Arrange them in chronological order, with the oldest information on top. Remove duplicate pages or illegible copies. The records are scanned into a computer format at the FAA, so the easier it is to read the records, the faster the reviewers and doctors can get through them.
  • Use the AOPA medical subject reports appropriate for your medical condition. The subject reports provide detailed information for many common medical conditions. Use them as a checklist to confirm that you have everything the FAA needs in the initial mailing. Each time you correspond with the FAA, it can take several weeks before you receive a response. Failure to provide everything that the FAA asks for is one of the major reasons for delays in processing medical applications. Don't rely on your AME to know what the FAA needs. Take responsibility for knowing what is needed and getting the records in advance of your FAA physical examination.
  • Provide the FAA with only the information asked for. If you are asked to provide additional information, send ONLY what they ask for, nothing more and nothing less. And don't rely on your health care provider to mail the records for you. Mail them yourself. Records totaling less than about 10 pages can be faxed to the FAA, but you can't be guaranteed they went to the right place unless you call first to let them know a fax is coming, then call again to confirm they got it.
  • If you are a member of the Medical Services Program and have requested a status inquiry, your case needs to be in process at the FAA for at least 15 days before we can initiate the inquiry.  It usually takes about 15 working days for the FAA to respond to our inquiry.
  • If you need to contact the FAA, the number is 800/350-5286. Avoid calling on Monday and Tuesday, if possible. Phone volume is usually heavy the first of the week.
  • Don't report for the FAA physical if you are ill or otherwise impaired. A cast on your ankle because of a sprain or break may not be the best way to impress your AME that you are fit to fly. Can you perform the duties required to exercise the pilot privileges in your current state? The same advice applies for a graded exercise treadmill test. If you're tired and run down and just don't feel good, better to postpone the test rather than risk an abnormality showing up on the study.
  • Plan your FAA exam as close to the first day of the month as possible. Even if you are on a time-limited certificate, the FAA third class medical exam is still due only every 24-calendar months, or 60 months if you're under age 40. 
  • E-mail is a valuable communication tool at AOPA. When you send an email, please include your name and AOPA number. We can't always identify a member by the email address alone.
  • The hardest part is to BE PATIENT. We will do the best we can to get an answer on your case as soon as possible.

Updated January 26, 2010