Pilots submitting a medical application via the FAA’s MedXPress website may have noticed some substantial changes to the form made in early 2018. The FAA has referred to these alterations as updates to the medical application, known as Form 8500-8, but has not called attention to those edits even though the changes are significant, and pilots should be both aware and forewarned.
The Administrator is providing you with the applicable written notifications related to this investigation of your qualifications for an airman medical certificate:
On August 13, the FAA posted a notice to obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget to continue using Form 8500-8 with the recent changes. To ensure that AOPA’s concerns about the changes have been documented and added to the official record, AOPA commented on the notice in October. Chief among the concerns are “additional instruction” drop-down menus, identified by a small "+" next to the question number. The drop-downs are easy to miss and difficult to understand.
Under the drop-down menus, there are now additional instructions that expand the scope of the question, or contradict the words used in the question. For example, under diabetes, the expanded language lists pre-diabetes in addition to actual types of diabetes.
In each of these expanded areas, the language and instructions are lengthy, confusing, and more likely to make a pilot check a box that might cause significant delays in the pilot receiving an airman medical certificate as well as opening the possibility of the pilot having to undergo invasive testing at his or her own expense.
In the past, both the Government Accountability Office and the NTSB have expressed their concerns on several areas of Form 8500-8; however, the FAA has continued to make ad hoc updates instead of complete revisions. AOPA urges the FAA to immediately undertake the process to make full revisions to the form and ensure the public and aviation community are included in the process.