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AME guidance released for pilots who have had COVID-19

The FAA on March 26 released much-anticipated guidance to aviation medical examiners about how to handle medical certificate applications from pilots and air traffic control specialists who have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

iStock photo.

As long as the pilot or ATC specialist is otherwise qualified, an AME can issue a medical certificate when the person who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 has fully recovered and was asymptomatic or had a mild infection, had a prolonged infection but was not hospitalized, or was hospitalized but did not require intensive care. For those who were hospitalized (but not in intensive care), the AME should forward any applicable records to the FAA after issuing the medical certificate.

AMEs must defer applications for individuals who were in intensive care or “are experiencing ongoing residual signs and/or symptoms of confirmed COVID-19.” The ongoing signs and symptoms “may include but are not limited to cardiovascular dysfunction, respiratory abnormalities, kidney injury, neurological dysfunction, psychiatric conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, moodiness), or symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, arthralgia, or chest pain,” according to the guidance sent to AMEs. This means the AME cannot issue the medical certificate in the office and sends the completed application and any other medical records to the FAA's Aerospace Medical Certification Division. The FAA then works directly with the pilot.

The guidance comes at a time when pilots, controllers, and AMEs were unsure of how to handle medical applications that involved a history of COVID-19.

“We appreciate the FAA’s scaled approach to granting medical certificates for pilots and air traffic control specialists who have had COVID-19,” said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon. “This guidance allows AMEs to issue medical certificates for the vast majority of pilots and controllers who have had COVID-19, requiring deferral in only the most severe cases.”

The FAA has previously released policies regarding the three coronavirus vaccines currently available—Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The policies require a 48-hour rest period after each dose (the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots) before resuming flying or controlling air traffic. Pilots and ATC specialists are not required to submit any documentation regarding their vaccination.

Alyssa J. Miller
Alyssa J. Cobb
The former senior director of digital media, Alyssa J. Cobb was on the AOPA staff from 2004 until 2023. She is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and two children. Alyssa also hosts the weekly Fly with AOPA show on the AOPA Pilot Video YouTube channel.
Topics: Advocacy, COVID19, Pilot Health and Medical Certification

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