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Check your heart's plumbing

Returning to flying after a cardiac event

The AOPA Pilot Information Center (PIC) is a valuable resource to members. The team fields questions from members about their medical certificates and other legal and operational concerns.

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“The majority of questions we get are centered around having a stent placed or having bypass surgery performed,” said Cade Halle, AOPA medical certification specialist. “We typically get people calling who have recently had a cardiac event. The question is usually, ‘I just had a stent placed/heart attack and I am flying on BasicMed. What do I need to do?’”

Having a cardiac condition that has to do with the “plumbing of the heart,” as Halle describes it, is a disqualifying event for BasicMed. Examples of those conditions are a stent, heart attack, coronary artery bypass graft, balloon angioplasty, heart valve replacement, or heart transplant. Each of these is immediately grounding and will require approval from the FAA by way of a special issuance medical certificate, which AOPA can help you with.

“When a pilot has one of the BasicMed disqualifying conditions (neurological event, cardiac event, or psychiatric episode that meets the disqualifying parameters) we can assist in providing what the FAA will require in terms of additional medical testing, medical records, and how to navigate sending that information to the FAA,” Halle said. “At the Pilot Protective Services Plus level we can even review that documentation to ensure it’s the appropriate information the FAA is expecting and look for any red flags that the FAA may question.”

The AOPA PIC is available to help if any of these concerns affect you.

[email protected]

Meet the PIC

Fly with AOPAAviation and medical specialists like private pilot Cade Halle respond to more than 200,000 member questions and thousands of chats, emails, and letters each year. As the foremost technical resource available to GA pilots, the AOPA Pilot Information Center maintains the highest standards of professionalism and technical expertise. This skilled group of pilots, medical specialists, and flight instructors has more than 50,000 hours of collective flight experience. Chat with PIC staff online during office hours (click the “Chat Live with AOPA” button on the website) or send an email. Call 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time. 

‘Undeniable success’

The BasicMed program became available to pilots on May 1, 2017. Since that time, the AOPA Air Safety Institute reports that the GA accident rate, based on NTSB data, including BasicMed pilots, is at its lowest level in decades. “With hundreds of thousands of GA pilots in the U.S., I am encouraged that we are experiencing the best safety numbers in years, even while the skies are busier than ever. The data clearly show that BasicMed has been an undeniable success,” said AOPA President Mark Baker.

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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