The FAA has all but eliminated the backlog of special issuance medical certificates by pulling in staff resources to clear out the queue. But FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine sources have told AOPA that while that backlog was significantly reduced, that resource concentration means the delay in issuing deferred medical certificates is now up to about 120 days.
But there is plenty that you can do to keep your medical certificate out of that queue.
"Pilots really need to be informed consumers when they renew their medical certificates," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "We've seen many cases where medicals were needlessly deferred to Oklahoma City, and that meant the pilots had unnecessary delays before they could fly."
Here's what happens. For most pilots, the AME (aviation medical examiner) issues the medical certificate on the spot. No problems, no delays.
In some cases, however, the pilot might have a medical condition that the AME isn't quite sure about, so the doctor defers the case to FAA's Aeromedical branch in Oklahoma City. The medical goes in the queue, and the pilot waits until the overloaded case examiners can get to it.
"So you need to do everything you can to make sure your case isn't deferred," said Crump. "Start with AOPA's TurboMedical® online form."
TurboMedical® can identify many problem areas before you walk into the doctor's office, and it will refer you to more resources so that you can get the documentation you need to avoid a deferral. You can also discuss your case with the medical certification specialists in the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA).
"Go to the AME armed with the information to show that your medical condition does not require a deferral," said Crump. "In fact, sometimes it's helpful to call the doctor beforehand to discuss your concerns."
If the AME tells you he's going to defer your medical to the FAA, encourage him to call the Regional Flight Surgeon or a case examiner in Oklahoma City. Frequently that quick consultation will result in the medical being issued on the spot.
Crump also encouraged pilots to seek out an AME who is passionate about aviation and will be a willing advocate for the pilot. AOPA recently updated its AME list to show what pilot certificates the doctor holds.
"You can have a big influence on whether you get your medical certificate now or have to wait," Crump said. "Use your AOPA resources to help you. It can make a big difference."
September 23, 2005