by Dr. Bill Blank, MD
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine August/September 2021 online issue
An airman will sometimes say “I am going to quit flying when this medical expires. I can’t pass the next one.” If you can’t past the next one, is your current medical valid? Why can’t you pass the next one? Your medical is valid the day it is issued, with the assumption that nothing will change during its period of validity, and that you will stop flying if something significant arises. What can render a medical invalid varies with the type of medical; regular FAA Medical, Basic Med, or Sport Pilot (driver’s license).
14 CFR § 61.53 Prohibition on operations during medical deficiency applies to all pilots regardless of the type of medical. When you become aware that you have a condition, are taking medication, or treatment for a condition that makes you unable to meet the requirements for your type of medical certificate, you must stop flying. If the condition is temporary, something like a broken arm, and resolves, you may resume flying when you have recovered. In any case, with certain exceptions, you do not need to report it to the FAA until your next medical.
For holders of regular FAA Medicals, there is a list of mandatory disqualifying conditions. They are Angina Pectoris, Bipolar Disorder, Coronary Artery Disease that has required treatment or is symptomatic, Diabetes Mellitus that requires insulin or oral medications, Disturbance of Consciousness without adequate explanation, Epilepsy, Heart Transplant, Myocardial Infarction, Permanent Cardiac Pacemaker, Personality Disorder manifested by overt acts, Psychosis, Substance Abuse, Substance Dependance, Transient Loss of Nervous System Function, and Valve Replacement. When you become aware of any of these conditions, your medical is immediately invalid. In many cases, certification is possible via Special Issuance.
You don’t need to inform the FAA if you develop any of these conditions…just stop flying! But, if they have given you a Special Issuance, you must immediately inform the FAA of any change in the condition, including a change of medication. The FAA may, or may not, revoke the Special Issuance, depending on the circumstances.
The situation is different for pilots flying under Basic Med. There is again a list of disqualifying conditions. It is quite similar to the regular medical list and includes various mental health and neurologic disorders, along with certain cardiovascular conditions. The substance dependence look-back period is only the previous two (2) years. Interestingly, Diabetes Mellitus is not included. Under Basic Med, you must get a one-time Special Issuance if you develop any of these conditions. Thus, your current Basic Med will become invalid.
Both Basic Med and Sport Pilot require a valid driver’s license. The restrictions on the license must be followed. Being required to wear glasses is fine. What about not being able to drive on freeways or at night, a 5-mile radius of home? Hmm…
If you can’t pass your next medical, it is likely that your current medical is not valid. If for some reason the FAA or your insurance company becomes interested, it may cause problems. Insurance companies won’t pay claims if you don’t meet their requirements. An invalid medical can lead to FAA sanctions.
I hope this has clarified disqualifying conditions.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Columnist 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 has 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.