Pilots awaiting a special-issuance medical could see significantly reduced processing times - AOPA members have reported turnaround times as little as 14 days - but that improvement may come at the expense of more routine medicals.
"Because of limited staff resources, the FAA reassigned reviewers from the general review section to work on special issuances, which has caused an increase in processing time for applications in general review," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "However, AOPA has been advocating long-term changes to speed the medical review process."
AOPA's efforts include expanding AMEs' responsibilities to utilize AME-assisted special issuances (AASI) and even certify first-time special issuances for some conditions. AOPA also has told the FAA that allowing the regional flight surgeons to review cases could also speed medical processing times. And the FAA is starting to listen: AMEs are encouraged to issue, not defer, when possible, in order to minimize the number of cases that have to be reviewed by the Aerospace Medical Division in Oklahoma City.
"But right now, there are a number of things you can do to decrease the chances that the AME will need to defer your medical," Crump said. "Start by using AOPA's TurboMedical and calling AOPA's medical certification specialists (800/USA-AOPA) so that we can get you through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible."
If you have a medical condition, see your personal physician for an evaluation before you go for the flight physical, take documentation with you to the AME that proves your condition does not require a deferral, and ask the AME to call his or her regional flight surgeon for a consultation instead of automatically deferring your application.
"The more you prepare for the flight physical, the better the chance you will leave the AME's office with your medical in hand," Crump said. "If you have any questions about a condition or what paperwork to gather before you visit the AME, call AOPA's medical certification specialists."
AOPA also offers online resources to help. More than 30 subject reports provide information on conditions ranging from heart disease to vision, diabetes, hearing, and more. Search the AME database to find a doctor who is also a pilot, learn what medications are allowed by the FAA, and request the status of your medical review.
November 10, 2005