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Regulations: Medical Certificates

The first step in becoming a pilot is selecting an aircraft (whether it’s airplanes, gyroplanes, weight-shift, helicopters, powered parachutes, gliders, balloons, or even airships). The second step is obtaining a medical certificate and Student Pilot’s Certificate if the choice of aircraft is an airplane, helicopter, gyroplane, or airship. Today, with help from the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, we’ll look closely at obtaining the medical certificate.

A third-class medical certificate/student pilot certificate.

A third-class medical certificate/student pilot certificate.

The FAA suggests new students get their medical certificate before beginning flight training to avoid the expense of flight training that cannot be continued due to a medical condition. Applicants who fail to meet certain requirements or who have physical disabilities which might limit, but not prevent, their acting as pilots, should contact the nearest FAA office.

A medical certificate is obtained by passing a physical examination administered by a doctor who is an FAA authorized Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). There are approximately 6,000 FAA-authorized AMEs across the country. Medical certificates are designated as first class, second class, or third class. Generally, first class is designed for the airline transport pilot, second class for the commercial pilot, and third class for the student, recreational, and private pilot. FAA Knowledge Exam questions relating were addressed in an earlier CFI post.

A third-class medical certificate is valid for three years for those individuals who have not reached the age of 40; otherwise it is valid for two years. A second-class certificate is valid for one year, and a first-class certificate is valid for six months. The standards are more rigorous for the higher classes of certificates. A pilot with a higher class medical certificate has met the requirements for the lower classes as well. The standards for medical certification are contained in 14 CFR part 67 and the requirements for obtaining medical certificates can be found in 14 CFR part 61.

A Student Pilot Certificate is issued by an AME at the time of the student’s first medical examination. This certificate allows a student being trained by flight instructor to fly alone (solo) under limited circumstances and must be carried with the student pilot while exercising solo flight privileges. The student certificate is valid until the last day of the month, 24 months after it was issued.

More from our CFI this Thursday.

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