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Your Aviation Medical

In order to fly, pilots must meet a certain medical standard based on their type of pilot certificate. Sport pilots can use their current driver’s license as their medical certificate. Recreational and private pilots must get a flight physical from an aviation medical examiner in order to receive a medical certificate.

If you are working toward the recreational or private pilot certificate, your medical will serve as your “student pilot certificate,” which is similar to a learner’s permit. You should schedule an appointment with an aviation medical examiner early in your training and carry the student pilot/medical certificate with you in the aircraft at all times. Ask your flight instructor if he or she could recommend an aviation medical examiner in your area.

Medical examination

The flight physical is a basic examination. The aviation medical examiner will test your hearing, eyesight, color vision, blood pressure, and urine sample, to name a few. You will need to fill out a form regarding family medical history, any personal health issues, any alcohol-related motor vehicle actions, and past doctor visits or hospital stays. If you have questions about this form, call our pilots for help at 800/USA-AOPA (800-872-2672).

Types and duration of medical certificates

There are three classes of medicals: first, second, and third class, each with its own requirements, duration, and privileges. Generally, the greater your responsibility and the more passengers you carry, the higher the class of medical you need. An airline captain, for example, needs a first class medical certificate, which is valid for just six or 12 calendar months, depending on the pilot's age, whereas a private or recreational pilot needs only a third class medical. It is valid for 60 months if you are under age 40, or 24 months if you are age 40 or older. A driver’s license will serve as the medical certificate for sport pilots.

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