Save Time & Money: Come Prepared!

by Dr. John Beasley, M.D. & AME
Aviation Medical Examiner, Professor Emeritus & Clinical Professor
Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin – Madison

So, this guy comes to me for a renewal of his medical certification and the form (at that time, the old paper form) is only partially filled out and has several errors. And he didn’t bring in the records from his personal physician that I needed. And, oh yeah, he didn’t think to bring his glasses for the eye exam.

All this made me wonder: “Jeeze, if he can’t do a proper pre-exam check, is he qualified to do a reasonable pre-flight check and fly an airplane?”

As you know, my personal rule of thumb (not FAA approved!) is that I’ll try to certify somebody if I’m willing to sit in the rear seat when they are flying. I didn’t think I wanted to fly in the seat behind that guy!

Like the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared.” Bring that confirmation number from MedXpress and a copy of the form you just filled out online (You did hit the “save” button, didn’t you?), with you for the exam. This will save time and can save you from a “gotcha.” As I wrote a few months ago, once I print out the exam, submission has officially started and it will be submitted. When you print it out, it gives you some protection against the chance of losing the possibility of flying under Sport Pilot rules. If I don’t print it out, then it just disappears after 30 days. If you have printed it out and I look at your printout, we can just stop the whole exam process if we have to. It’s like having a bit of runway left if your engine hiccups.

Be organized. If you have Authorization for Special Issuance (SI), bring the letter. Yeah, I know…it’s probably scanned into my electronic health record if I’ve seen you before, but do you really want to pay for my time to try to sit there pointing and clicking trying to find some scanned document that takes forever to load? And if you applied for the SI yourself, be sure you included everything that the fed’s letter asked for, or that I have it if you want me to send it in. We are not into saving trees here. Print all that stuff out and keep it in a folder that you take to your AME for your appointment. If an electrocardiogram (ECG) will be needed, bring in the old ones. Sometimes there are trivial abnormalities that we can show are not significant if they were present in a previous tracing.

It helps to know the rules and what you will need. A few months back I saw an applicant for a Class 1 Certificate and he was in great condition, but (my bad!) I forgot that at his age an ECG was required. I was running a bit behind and gave him the certificate, and a few hours later, went to submit the form and the computer reminded me that I needed to get an ECG sent by telemetry to Oklahoma City. Oh *$#^%! I called him and finally got it done, albeit out of sequence, and it was a considerable hassle for him for which I apologized. I should have known this ahead of time, but at the same time, if he had checked ahead for what would be required and alerted me, that would have saved some hassle for him, not to mention embarrassment for me. In the air, we call this crew resource management; we’re all in this together and need to help cover for each other.

By the way, there is another reason to keep a personal file. It is very useful to have your information available to you the next time you fill out MedXPress. MedXpress will not save your information from one certification to the next and you need to fill out everything each time. This will save you time and help avoid hassles since once a condition is checked, it has to be checked all the time.

Your AME needs to keep the records and you should too. Your AME might get run over by a bus or you may move and get a new AME somewhere else. So buy a nice plastic folder and keep all the medical records that are relevant to your certification in it. And bring it with you! Did I need to say that? Pre-flight? Pre-exam? Be Prepared.

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