by Dr. John Beasley, M.D.
Aviation Medical Examiner
Professor Emeritus and Clinical Professor
Department of Family Medicine
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Ah, for the good old days when the Wrights were a couple of kids, medical records were kept on stone tablets, the earth was flat, and I was a young doctor! Some older stuff really works. Hey, I still have steam gauges in the Mooney.
However, some changes are helpful. As I noted a few months ago in a previous column, I had a “medical ramp check” in my office by a Friendly Fed (really, the guy was), and he suggested that I invite my patients to use MedXpress, the FAA’s internet-based system for entry for the pilot’s portion of the FAA medical form, our old friend the 8500-8.
I first ran into this the last time I got my own Class III (never go for a class higher than what you need*) and went through the process last year. However, I must confess that I had just not gotten around to asking people to do this for me. Just inertia, I guess.
Nonetheless for me, and a lot of other AMEs, the time has come. My introduction came recently when an airman showed up at my office having entered his information through MedXpress, and it really facilitated the process. Some AMEs are now insisting that all applicants use the system.
If your AME is using MedXpress (check when you make your appointment), you no longer have to fill out the 8500-8 in the doctor’s office
If you haven’t done it before, here’s what you do. You log in to: https://medxpress.faa.gov/ (or you can just use your search engine and put in “MedXpress” and it will pop up). This will take you to their login page and from there you can set up an account that will let you fill in your own electronic form 8500-8.
You establish an account and then log in with your email and the password you select. Following that, you enter your information on the computerized application form (which looks pretty much like the paper one you were used to). You should have handy records of any medications you take and any physician visits when you do this. (By the way, as far as I can tell, the exact dates for physician visits are not necessary… it seems to be acceptable if you just make the best honest guess you can.) If you do make an error, don’t worry too much…your AME can make corrections once you are in his/her office.
You get an email confirmation letter, which you need to print out. This has a confirmation number that your AME will use to access your form. Bring this letter with you when you visit your AME.
Now, with the paper forms there was a third copy that your AME could give to you, so you don’t have to remember everything for the next exam. The MedXpress system doesn’t keep a record of your last exam that will be available to you, so you may want to print out a copy yourself or get a copy of the printout from your AME at the time of the exam to help you the next time around.
Overall, I do think the system will save time and reduce errors. I’m looking forward to having more of my own applicants use it. I’m sure many AMEs have been using this system longer – but then they probably have those new-fangled whiz-bang flat panels in their airplanes, too.
*The higher the medical certificate, the more the FAA scrutinizes the application and the more stringent the requirements become. In some cases, there is more testing required for a First or Second Class Medical Certificate, versus a Third Class Medical Certificate (e.g. ECG), which would add to the cost for the applicant. So unless there is a need for a higher medical certificate, it is generally not worth the additional time and money. If, however, a pilot is planning a career as a commercial pilot, the applicant may want to go for a Class I just to be sure they qualify before they go to the expense of training.