Medical Certificate Types and Requirements for Pilots

FAA Medical CertificatesAirman Medical Certification

FAA Airman Medical Certificates, commonly referred to as simply a medical, is required for all pilots to act as pilot-in-command (PIC), or as a required crewmember, of an aircraft. While a medical is not required to receive flight instruction, it is required for a student to complete the solo flight requirements of their flight training.

Privileges

There are a wide variety of aviation operations that require a medical certificate, including for pilots to:

  • Act as pilot-in-command (PIC)
  • Fly an aircraft solo
  • Serve as a required pilot flightcrew member
Pilot Personal Responsibility

Aviation relies on the honor system. Even if a pilot holds a current medical or operates under BasicMed they should always self-evaluate and determine fitness for flight. A pilot should self-ground themselves (avoid flying, by personal choice) anytime they do not feel they can operate the aircraft safely, regardless if it is for business or pleasure. Common colds, many medications, or even aches and pains could pose a problem in the air. Anything out of the ordinary should be considered before climbing into the airplane. Abiding by this thought process increases the likelihood of a successful and enjoyable outcome when you are feeling fit to fly.

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Types of Pilot Medical Certificates First-Class, Second-Class, Third-Class Medicals and BasicMed

There are three different classes of medicals a pilot may seek. The choice largely depends on the type of flying the pilot is conducting. As an example, an airline pilot will have more stringent medical requirements, thus requiring a first-class medical. While a pilot that flies for hobby or other personal reasons will have less stringent medical requirements, thus requiring a third-class medical.

Reference CFR 14 §67 for additional information.

1st Class Medical Certificate

Pilots aspiring to join the airlines at some point in the future may find it worthwhile to obtain a first-class medical, ensuring you always meet the requirements necessary to reach your goal. The first-class medical is the highest class of medical available and is required for:

  • An airline pilot exercising pilot-in-command privileges of their airline transport pilot certificate
  • A pilot serving as a required flightcrew member in the airlines that has reached his or her 60th birthday
  • Operate as second-in-command in the airlines on an aircraft that requires three or more pilots

Reference CFR 14 §67 Subpart B for additional information.

2nd Class Medical Certificate

A second-class medical is required for:

  • Airline pilots exercising second-in-command privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate (aside from the aforementioned for first-class medical)
  • Pilots utilizing privileges of their commercial pilot certificate

Reference CFR 14 §67 Subpart C for additional information.

3rd Class Medical Certificate

Hobbyists, pilots that use their personal airplane for travel, and other non-commercial pilots generally opt for the third-class medical. A third-class medical is required for:

  • All pilots wishing to exercise privileges of a private pilot certificate
  • Recreational pilot certificate
  • Student pilot certificate
  • When exercising privileges of a flight instructor certificate or acting as a required flightcrew member (aside from the aforementioned for a first-class medical)
  • A pilot examiner must at least hold a third-class medical to perform their duties
  • In addition, the third-class medical must not be expired when taking a practical test for any of the aforementioned certificates (and including an airline transport certificate)

Reference CFR 14 §67 Subpart D for additional information.

BasicMed

In 2016 legislation was passed that allows pilots to fly without a medical as long as certain guidelines are met. Operators under BasicMed are not allowed:

  • To fly an aircraft:
    • That seats more than 6 occupants
    • That has a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 6,000 pounds
  • To fly for compensation or hire
  • To not exceed a speed of 250 knots
  • To not fly at an altitude of 18,000 feet or above

These limitations mean career pilots may not operate under BasicMed.

BasicMed Requirements:

  • Undergo are a physical exam conducted by a state-licensed physician following guidance from the BasicMed Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC)
  • Complete of a BasicMed medical education course
  • Possess a valid US Drivers License
  • Have held at least a third-class medical at some point after July 14th, 2006
  • Never been previously denied a medical

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Medical Certificate Duration Expiration and Renewal Schedule

Medical certificates are renewed periodically, per the table below, and each of the three different classes of medical certificate have different time increments for which pilots may exercise the privileges of that medical. After the duration of a medical certificate has elapsed, it does not expire. Instead, a pilot may continue to exercise the privileges of the next less restrictive medical certificate. For example, if you are under 40, with a second-class medical, you may fly as a commercial pilot for the first 12 months and then may fly as a private pilot for the remaining 48 months.

FAA Medical Certificate Durations
Privileges Under the Age of 40 Age 40 and Over
First-Class Airline Transport Pilot 12 Months 6 Months
Second-Class Commercial Pilot 12 Months 12 Months
Third-Class Private Pilot 60 Months 24 Months
BasicMed Private Pilot 60 Months 24 Months

It is also important to note the duration of medical privileges begins after the month of examination. For example, a pilot under the age of 40 that obtains their first-class medical on January 1st of 2020 will need to renew their medical by January 31st of 2021, 12 months after the month of examination, not the day of examination.

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What is an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)? How to Get Your Pilot Medical Certificate?

The Airman Medical Certificate is obtained after completion of a satisfactory physical exam conducted by an Aviation Medical Examiner, or AME. The AME tests vision, hearing, general health, and cardiovascular health. The AME will also attempt to determine if the applicant has any conditions that will cause the pilot to become incapacitated during flight, or any other reason for a medical certificate denial. Pilots wishing to maintain the privileges of their pilot certificates will continue to visit an AME at regular intervals as long as they wish to keep flying. Applying and scheduling an appointment for a medical is relatively straight forward by visiting FAA MedXPress, creating an application and locating an AME.

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FAA Medical Exam Health Requirements What Is Included in an FAA Medical Exam?

Pilots are subject to certain health standards, such as:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Equilibrium
  • Mental
  • Neurological
  • Cardiovascular

For a complete list of the health requirements for obtaining FAA Airman Medical Certificates, reference CFR 14 §67.

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Medical Certificate Testing Requirements

The physical requirements to obtain each class of medical have some variances. Any existing condition may be grounds for disqualification or require a special issuance determined by the FAA.

First-Class
14 §67 Subpart B
Second-Class
14 §67 Subpart C
Third-Class
14 §67 Subpart D
Distance Vision
(corrected or uncorrected)
At least 20/20 in each eye At least 20/20 in each eye At least 20/40 in each eye
Intermediate vision
(if over the age of 50, corrected or uncorrected)
At least 20/40 At least 20/40 Does not apply
Colorblindness Some color blindness may be permitted for all classes, but only if the color vision necessary for safe performance of airman duties is met.
Hearing Must also be able to hear normal conversational voice with both ears at a distance of six feet
Blood Pressure No standard for blood pressure although if a pilot is taking medications to control blood pressure further insight may be required
Equilibrium Any diseases causing vertigo, or disturbance of speech or equilibrium are not permitted for any class of medical.

Reference 14 CFR §67 for additional information.

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