Musculoskeletal Conditions

Musculoskeletal Conditions Certain physical handicaps, including amputations with fitted prostheses, paraplegia, degenerative joint disease, osteomyelitis (bone infection), or scoliosis (curvature of the spine) may be certified under special issuance following review of medical records and satisfactory completion of a special medical flight test.

At the time of the application, you will need to provide the aviation medical examiner with the following records:

  • Hospital and treatment records
  • Neurological evaluation (if paraplegic)
  • Urological evaluation (if paraplegic)
  • Orthopedic evaluation addressing functional capacity, range of motion, and limitations
  • Current status report from your treating physician

In most cases, first time reporting of these conditions to the FAA will result in a deferral of the application to the FAA for review. However, the AME may call the FAA for authorization to issue a medical certificate with limitations. In cases involving an amputation or paraplegia, a medical certificate may be issued with a limitation "Valid for Student Pilot Privileges Only." This certificate will allow completion of flight training up to the flight check ride.

About two months prior to being signed off for the flight test, you should request from the FAA an authorization for the medical flight test. The FAA will then issue an authorization letter to you that will be valid for 90 days. Once you have the authorization letter, contact the local flight standards district office (FSDO) to schedule the flight test. Present the authorization letter to the FAA inspector at the time of the flight check. The FAA medical flight test, if taken as part of the check ride for a pilot certificate, will include the practical test requirements for the certificate or rating sought. It will also include demonstrations that allow the inspector to determine that the applicant can:

  • Reach and effectively operate all controls that would normally require the use of the involved extremity (or extremities).
  • Satisfactorily perform emergency procedures relative to flight, such as stall recovery or engine-out procedures for multiengine aircraft.
  • In the case of arm or hand prostheses, lift power levers for reversing thrust (turboprop aircraft).

Upon successful completion of the flight test, the inspector is authorized to issue a medical certificate and statement of demonstrated ability (SODA) without the student pilot limitation. In some cases involving prostheses or special hand control appliances, a certificate limitation will require that the appliances be installed in the aircraft while exercising the privileges. Also, the limitation may require that a specific airplane permanently fitted with appropriate appliances be used for all flight duties.

Additional information about paraplegic certification and hand control suppliers can be obtained by contacting:

International Wheelchair Aviators
82 Corral Drive
Keller, TX 76244

Telephone 817/229-4634


Spine Injuries

Spinal conditions, such as herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, whether treated surgically or not, or scoliosis that have resulted in complete recovery, require no medications, and have no residual neurological deficit, may be issued by the aviation medical examiner at the time of examination. A current status report from your treating physician should be provided to the aviation medical examiner at the time of the FAA physical. Other spinal deformities that might interfere with performance of airman duties will normally be deferred to the FAA for a decision.

How/Where to Submit to the FAA

Helps you find the contact information for submitting your medical records.

Updated November 28, 2012