Tips For Responding To FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine

by Gregory J. Reigel
© 2021 October. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine Online October/November 2021 issue

As you may know, the process for obtaining a Special Issuance Medical Certificate, or renewal of a special issuance, can be daunting. Depending on the condition, or set of conditions, an airman may be able to provide the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) with the necessary information to be submitted in connection with an application. Alternatively, the airman may need to submit information directly to the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine in response to a specific request. 

The FAA’s new Federal Air Surgeon, Susan Northrop, M.D., recently provided some tips for both airmen and AMEs when submitting information to the FAA. Here are some of those tips for airmen, along with my own recommendations:

• First, do your homework. Review the FAA’s Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners online before you submit your application. For most conditions, the AME guide will identify not only how the FAA will treat the condition, but also what information it will require to issue a medical certificate.

• Second, if you are going to submit information directly to the FAA, make sure you read everything before you send the information to the FAA. If you see something in the records that could raise other flags for the FAA, you will then have the opportunity to proactively address the issue, rather than having to respond to a follow-up request from the FAA. For example, if the records reveal something that should have been disclosed on prior applications but wasn’t, determine what additional information may be necessary to address the non-disclosure. You should then submit that additional information to the FAA. This will help avoid the delays of back-and-forth correspondence with the FAA.

• Third, make sure every page is legible, and contains at least your name and a date. Any letters from treatment providers need to have an actual signature from the provider. However, clinical notes and records do not require signatures. If you have the information in PDF format, you may also want to use a header or footer, if possible, in which you include your name, PI #, and App ID # (you will find the latter two on any correspondence you receive from the FAA). That way if any pages get separated before your package is scanned into the FAA’s Document Imaging Workflow System, the FAA will know to which file they belong.

• Fourth, make sure you provide the FAA with each item requested. A partial submission will only result in further delay as the FAA sends a follow-up letter repeating its request for any missing items. A complete package will ensure that the FAA can proceed with its review of your application.

• Fifth, include your correct contact information, including phone number, so the FAA can contact you if needed.

• Sixth, if you are unable to obtain the requested information within the time allotted (usually 30 or 60 days), request an extension. You can do so by contacting the Airman Medical Certification Division or your Regional Flight Surgeon’s Office. In most instances, the FAA will grant a limited extension.

• Finally, when you send information, use a delivery method that provides you with tracking information and proof of delivery. And keep a copy of everything you send to and receive from the FAA. It isn’t unheard of for a package to be misdelivered or for the FAA to misplace it once received. If you have copies, it will be easy enough to re-send if necessary.

Following these tips will not guaranty that the FAA approves a medical application and issues you a medical certificate. However, these steps will minimize unnecessary delays and the time required for the FAA to review, process, and make a decision regarding your application.

If you have questions regarding the medical application process or need assistance in responding to FAA requests for information, please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to assist.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Greg Reigel is an attorney with Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, LLP, and represents clients throughout the country in aviation and business law matters. He has more than two decades of experience working with airlines, charter companies, fixed base operators, airports, repair stations, pilots, mechanics, and other aviation businesses in aircraft purchase and sales transactions, regulatory compliance including hazmat and drug and alcohol testing, contract negotiations, airport grant assurances, airport leasing, aircraft-related agreements, wet leasing, dry leasing, and FAA certificate and civil penalty actions. For assistance, call 214-780-1482, email: greigel@shackelford.law,
or Twitter @ReigelLaw  (
www.shackelford.law).

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