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AOPA, FAA medical leaders meet

New federal air surgeon pledges to work with AOPA to address medical process challenges

In a recent virtual meeting, AOPA President Mark Baker and the AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors met with Dr. Susan Northrup, the new FAA federal air surgeon, and Deputy Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Brett Wyrick. The group pledged to work together to iron out medical administrative and process issues that have been a source of frustration for general aviation pilots for years.

FAA Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Susan Northrup is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. She also grew up in an aviation family, is a private pilot, and understands general aviation. Here, she is shown next to the family's Canadian Car and Foundry Harvard Mark IV, a version of the North American T-6 warbird trainer. Photo courtesy of John Hyle.

“This new leadership team at the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine is determined and action-oriented,” said Baker. “I know changes that are needed will not happen overnight, but the willingness to address and fix the problems associated with obtaining a medical or special issuance is long overdue and welcome.”

Northrup is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, a senior FAA aviation medical examiner and board certified in aerospace medicine and occupational medicine, and a private pilot. Wyrick, who previously served as acting federal air surgeon, is an Air Force veteran, is dual board certified in general surgery and aerospace medicine, and serves as the deputy joint staff surgeon in the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Wyrick is also a private pilot and a senior aviation medical examiner for the FAA.

“Coming from a family of aviators, I fully understand the opportunities and challenges the GA community faces with the medical certification process, and we look forward to working with AOPA on a plan to alleviate the difficulties,” said Northrup. 

FAA Deputy Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Brett Wyrick is a U.S. Air Force veteran and general aviation pilot. He previously served as acting federal air surgeon. Photo courtesy of Brett Wyrick.

“Whether it is receiving threatening correspondence from the FAA, response time, knowing where your application is in the process, whom to contact at the FAA, moving away from regular mail to emails, there are many issues to address,” Baker added. “To say that I am encouraged by this new team is an understatement. I know the FAA wants to get pilots safely in the air. We share that goal, but some of the FAA’s processes need to be modernized and upgraded, which will help pilots and the FAA.”

Joining Baker in the meeting were members of AOPA’s Board of Aviation Medical Advisors: Drs. Ian Fries (chair), an orthopedic surgeon and FAA aviation medical examiner; Brent Blue, an emergency medicine and family medicine practitioner; Chuck Denison, an aviation and forensic psychologist; Sean Malone, an internist; Richard Roth, an infectious disease expert; and Kenneth Stahl, a cardiothoracic surgeon, all of whom are avid GA pilots and accomplished physicians in their respective fields. The AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors provides expertise in advancing solutions to address long-overdue reforms to the FAA’s medical certification processes.

AOPA’s Pilot Information Center receives more than 40,000 medical-related calls annually.

AOPA has a wealth of medical resources and professionals available to members as part of our Pilot Protection Services program.

Alyssa J. Miller

Eric Blinderman

Senior Director of Communications
Eric Blinderman is AOPA’s Senior Director of Communications. Eric joined AOPA in 2020 after several years at leading marketing/communications agencies in New York and is looking forward to putting his newly minted private pilot certificate to work.
Topics: Advocacy, Pilot Health and Medical Certification

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