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What can I do without a medical?

By Paul Feldmeyer

There is some confusion about what you can and can’t do without a medical certificate. The reference for almost all “do I need a medical for this” or “what class of medical do I need” questions is FAR 61.23.

Photography by David Tulis.
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Photography by David Tulis.

A scenario we often hear is from pilots who don’t have a current medical but want to complete a flight review in anticipation of getting a medical. You can complete a flight review without a medical if the CFI is able to act as pilot in command and has a valid medical themselves. Typically, a CFI will act as PIC on training flights, but there are some circumstances where they don’t or can’t. Ensure the CFI giving you the flight review is capable of acting as PIC if you don’t have a medical. 

A second common question I see is from CFIs wanting to give instruction but they don’t have a valid medical. In certain situations, it can be legal for a CFI to give instruction without a medical. The CFI would not be able to act as a required crew member, so primary instruction is off the table, as well as any instrument instruction involving a view limiting device. They can instruct pilots who can act as PIC for the entire flight, i.e., commercial and CFI applicants, as well as flight reviews for pilots with unexpired flight reviews. Students without the correct signoffs for the aircraft they’re flying can’t act as PIC.

BasicMed offers an alternative path to fly without a current medical certificate; see aopa.org/basicmed for details of how to qualify. Contact AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672), or visit aopa.org/pic for more information.

Paul Feldmeyer is a senior aviation technical specialist in the AOPA Pilot Information Center.

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