Pilot Certificates



Cross-Country Procedures

Medical Certification
Obtaining a pilot's license requires that you be examined by a physician authorized by the FAA to perform flight physicals. The Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) will issue one of three types of medical certificate, described below. You do not need a medical certificate to begin taking lessons, but you cannot solo until you have it.

Unfortunately not everyone can be certified to fly. Some conditions are inherently disqualifying. Other conditions can prevent you from obtaining a first or second-class medical, which may preclude a commercial career, but you can still get a private certificate. Waivers are possible for some conditions, provided that you can demonstrate that they do not impair your performance as a pilot.

Medical Certification
Medical certifications come in three classes. First Class is the most stringent, and is required for you to be exercise the privileges of an Airline Transport Pilot. Second Class is required for a Commercial certificate, and Third Class for Private Pilot privileges (note that you can acquire Commercial and ATP ratings with a lower grade of medical than required to exercise their privileges).

The differences between medical certificate classes are actually quite small and mainly concern visual acuity (a Third Class medical allows vision, corrected or uncorrected, to 20/40, while First and Second Class require 20/20). First Class medicals also require an EKG after age 35, and an annual EKG after age 40. Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 67 explain these in more detail.

Medical Certificates are valid for up to two years. A First Class certificate must be renewed every six months, and a Second Class, annually. Third Class certificates are good for two years. Upon its expiration, a First or Second Class certificate remains valid for operations requiring only the next lower class of certificate. For example, a Commercial pilot may exercise the privileges of that Commercial certificate for the year that his Second Class medical is valid, and may continue to exercise the privileges of a Private Pilot for an additional year (since the Private requires only a Third Class certificate, good for two years).

Aviation Medical Examiners
Check our Directory section in a few weeks for a list of AMEs in the area. This will not necessarily be a complete list, and we do not intend it to be an endorsement of any particular physician. The Landings site also has a searchable AME database.
Disqualifying Conditions
Some medical conditions can prevent you from obtaining the necessary certification for flight. These can be neurological (epilepsy or other seizure disorders; unexplained loss of consciousness), cardiac (history of heart attack, angina, valve replacement, etc.), psychological (psychosis, bipolar disorder, substance dependance within the last two years), or various limitations and defects in vision, hearing or equilibrium. Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 67 explains these in more detail. Waivers are available for some disqualifying conditions. The Part 67 also explains the waiver policy. A current copy of the FARs is at the club office, or can be found in the aviaition section at many bookstores.

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