Based on our frequent interactions with the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division, let me share with you six things that you can do to hasten the process of wresting your medical certificate from the FAA.
- Do your homework before you make an application or otherwise get the FAA in the loop on your medical situation. If you have a condition(s) that will require special issuance, call us at AOPA (800/USA-AOPA) or go online and research your medical condition to find out what medical records the FAA will need, and have both the historical records and the required current testing completed so you can provide it to the FAA either directly from you or via your aviation medical examiner when you have a flight physical. However, in most cases, we will encourage you to assume responsibility for getting your medical information to the FAA yourself rather than relying on your AME, your treating physician, or other health care providers to send records directly to the FAA. That way, you know what was sent, when it was sent, by what method was it sent, and that it was sent to the right place.
- Overnight mail (FedEx, UPS, USPS) is better than snail mail because you will send it directly to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division on the campus of the Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City instead of the downtown Oklahoma City post office box. That step alone gets it into the workflow process several days sooner than snail mail.
Fax works, but only for small amounts of data. If you have a package of more than, say 10 pages, it’s best to mail it in. And if you are sending ECG tracings from a stress test, don’t fax those since the images will probably not transmit clearly and won’t be legible. Generally, fax is better if the FAA has already reviewed part of the medical information and is just asking for a single report to complete the review.
- When putting your records together, don’t bother with any fancy binders or folders with the color coded dividers. Everything will be scanned into digital format as the first step of the review process, so just put the records in some semblance of chronological order, preferably with the oldest information on top, the most current on the bottom. The file then will, hopefully, be scanned in the same order so when the legal instrument examiner (reviewer) at the FAA gets the case, he/she can go quickly go through the records in the order in which they were created, and that will save time, too.
- Identify every page of your documents. If you have a PI number from previous correspondence with the FAA, put that number on every page of the records you are sending. That helps identify you in the system, especially if you have a fairly common name that is shared by many other pilots in the FAA database. If you don’t have a PI number, your full name, date of birth, and address are good data points for identification. If you have a lot of records, it may be a good idea to have some adhesive stickers made up with the information printed on them to save time and avoid writer’s cramp.
- Don’t send the same information by multiple ways. That is, don’t fax something to the FAA, then mail the same thing the next day. That will delay processing of your case.
- Enroll in AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services so that we can track your medical through the system and alert you to the need for additional information right away. This can be a big time saver. In most cases, our involvement can help move the case through the system more quickly.
These steps may take a little more time on your part, but anything you can do to make your case get processed faster means you fly sooner rather than later!
For more expert medical advice and professional assistance with protecting your pilot and medical certificates all year round, visit—and consider joining— AOPA Pilot Protection Services.
Most of the world is pretty much on board with electronic communications, and email is now a very convenient way to transmit medical records … unless it is going to the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division in Oklahoma City. They are working toward that goal but are not there yet. For now, overnight mail, snail mail, and fax are the only acceptable means of providing medical records to the FAA.
Gary is the Director of AOPA’s Pilot Information Center Medical Certification Section and has spent the last 28 years assisting AOPA members. He is also a former Operating Room Technician, Professional Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician, and has been a pilot since 1973.