Airman Medical Certification Overview

Overview The FAA Act of 1958 charged the federal government with promoting aviation and maintaining aviation safety standards. The FAA's Office of Aerospace Medicine regulates, among other things, airman medical certification standards. That includes structuring certification policies and processes to reflect current medical advancements.

Despite the government's efforts to streamline the review process and speed the issuance of medical certificates, ongoing administrative and technology challenges continue to result in lengthy delays for some pilots whose medical applications have to be reviewed by the Aerospace Medical Certification Division. Those delays notwithstanding, the U.S. FAA has the most progressive civil aviation medical certification standards in the world.

The Airman Medical Standards and Certification Procedures, FAR Part 67, is a maze of medical and legal language that is, in some respects, clear and concise, and, in others, very general and vague. Medically certificating pilots is a bureaucratic process, but the FAA also must consider the prevailing political and legal climate in the course of evaluating an individual's medical application. Aviation safety is foremost, and each applicant's medical history is evaluated on the basis of risk of incapacitation.

The airman medical standards are minimum standards. There is no practical way for all possible medical conditions to be considered in a regulatory standard. For that reason, the FAA develops certification policies that include baselines for different medical conditions that are weighed against the risk of incapacitation associated with that condition. That way, every applicant for a medical certificate who has a medical condition that requires review will receive consideration that is measured against the medical policy and on the merits of the individual's medical case history.

Let's take a look at the interior of FAR Part 67. Subpart A is general information, including certification of foreign airmen and an important authorization for access to the National Driver Register. Subparts B, C, and D include the minimum medical standards that must be met for first, second, and third class medical certificates.

The subparts are further divided by organ group including Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat, and Equilibrium, Mental, Neurologic, Cardiovascular, and General medical condition. Subpart E is Certification Procedures and includes the detailed description of special issuances that are required for pilot applicants who have disqualifying medical histories.

Updated October 27, 2009