by Dr. Bill Blank, MD
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved!
Published online Midwest Flyer Magazine – February/March 2021
FAA form 8500-8 is the form airman complete and submit via MedXpress before every flight physical. The Basic Med form is derived from it. Recently, several questions have come up regarding how to complete this form. The form, itself, is about 19 years old. Modifying it apparently takes about 3 years. Modifications must be approved by several different government agencies. For that reason, the FAA tries to modify it as little as possible and find administrative workarounds.
A frequent question is, how many times do I need to report an old health condition?
The short answer is: On Every Medical. Question 18 asks, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH, HAD, OR DO YOU PRESENTLY HAVE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING? That part of the question is all capitalized for emphasis. This means that if you had a tonsillectomy when you were 9 years old, and you are 50 years old today, you still must report it under 18u, “surgery,” on every subsequent medical.
Does that leave you puzzled? Here is the government “logic.”
The aeromedical division knows what you have previously reported, but your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) may not. He cannot look up any of your old medicals, unless he, himself, did them. Your AME can look at a history summary sheet which tells him what you checked yes to. He would know that you had surgery in the past, but not what kind. The rationale has something to do with privacy requirements. If you go to a multispecialty clinic for your health care, any physician in the system can look up your electronic records. If your regular family physician is gone, another physician can see your records when he sees you. This would also be true, if you went to the emergency room (ER).
Why can’t the FAA do this? It beats me. AMEs are told that the government lawyers require this. Once you report a condition the first time, you can write PRNC (previously reported, no change) under surgery, for example, on subsequent exams, unless you have had more surgery. This applies to all of the conditions! Your AME must comment on every condition you check yes to. He can no longer use PRNC.
Another question is, what do you do if you have several visits for the same condition?
Perhaps you are seeing your physician every two months for the same condition. You could have more than 20 visits for the same condition between flight physicals. Here you can list one visit, a recent one, give the reason and comment “multiple visits.”
Question 17b causes many problems. It is poorly worded. I’ve been crusading to get the wording changed for many years.
What the FAA is asking is, “Do you wear a contact lens in one eye which is only for near vision?” That means that you cannot see far away with that eye. This is called “monovision.” The FAA doesn’t like this.
If you want to utilize monovision, you have to have adapted for 6 months, then take a Medical Flight Test, and the FAA will issue you a SODA (Statement of Demonstrated Ability). So the answer to Question 17b must be NO. Even if you wear bifocal contact lenses, the correct answer is NO. They are not for near vision only.
Question 17a asks about “medications.” The FAA steadfastly refuses to issue a list of approved medications. This is apparently the recommendation of government lawyers. The FAA physicians obviously have a list. The workaround is that AOPA has a list and makes it available to its members. If you have any questions about a medication you are taking, I suggest you refer to this list before seeing your AME. That way, if a change is needed, you can do it ahead of time. Remember, your AME must transmit your exam within 14 days of when he submits your confirmation number.
Some of these FAA policies need changing. I’m passing them on to you so you can deal with the system as it is now.
The previous Federal Air Surgeon, Dr. Michael Berry, has retired. Dr. Susan E. Northrup is the new Federal Air Surgeon, effective January 17, 2021. Dr. Northrup brings a wealth of experience from the FAA regional medical program, industry, and the military. A private pilot and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Dr. Northrup is board certified in aerospace medicine and in occupational medicine. She is an acknowledged expert in aviation having served as the Vice-Chair for Aerospace Medicine on the American Board of Preventive Medicine. She has served as the FAA medical subject matter expert to ICAO’s COVID-19 response activities.
Until next time, stay safe and happy flying!
NEWS FLASH: The FAA Aeromedical Certification Division announced December 19, 2020, that holders of Airman Aeromedical Certificates may receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, or the vaccine produced by Moderna, which are being made available to the American public under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is a 48-hour no fly waiting period that must be observed after each dose. There may be changes. Stay tuned!
EDITOR’S NOTE: William A. Blank is a physician in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and has been an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) since 1978, and a Senior AME since 1985. Dr. Blank is a retired Ophthalmologist, but still gives some of the ophthalmology lectures at AME renewal seminars. Flying-wise, Dr. Blank holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and has 5600 hours. He is a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) and has given over 1200 hours of aerobatic instruction. In addition, Dr. Blank was an airshow performer through the 2014 season and held a Statement of Aerobatic Competency (SAC) since 1987.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations and FAA Aeronautical Information Manual for additional information and clarification.