"I'm trying to present my husband with his medical certification on Christmas Day, only 14 days away," the e-mail began. "He mailed it [to the FAA] in September.... If you can help me in any way I would be grateful," wrote Nancy Williams. Why the urgency? Her husband, a student pilot, needed the medical to solo. And he was eager to get his ticket so he and his wife could fly often to see their 14-week-old grandson.
"A highly unusual request, but that's what we are here for," AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote back. "We have a terrific fella in charge of our medical department.... If it is possible, he'll get it done."
The idea of making the medical certificate a Christmas present was a bit unusual, but for AOPA's Medical Certification department, there was nothing unusual about the issues involved. Every year, thousands of pilots ask AOPA for help in getting their medical certificates. And most of the time, AOPA is able to deliver.
"Worry about getting or keeping their medical certificate is the number-one concern of many pilots," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "That's why AOPA has a full-time department devoted exclusively to helping pilots with aviation medical issues."
AOPA recently upgraded some of its medical services to improve communications between AOPA, its members, and the FAA on medical certification issues.
The association has even added an online "status check," so members can find out what's happening with their medical certification.
And Mr. Williams' medical?
AOPA worked with its contacts at the FAA. They were able to fax his medical the next day.
"This was an unusual case, and everything came together just the right way," said Crump. "We wish we could do it for everybody every time. But this one sure felt good."
Henry Williams soloed just before Christmas. Welcome to the ranks of aviators, Mr. Williams. And Merry Christmas.
December 28, 2004