Physical Examination for Pilots
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
requires that you be properly certificated and physically able to
operate your aircraft competently before you are licensed to fly.
Periodic physical examinations are intended not only to evaluate your
general health, but to help ensure that you will not suffer a medical
emergency during actual flight. It is also necessary that you be free of
conditions which dull your alertness and impair your ability to make
quick decisions. As a pilot, you often hold the lives of others in your
hands; it is crucial that you be able to instantly recognize and
properly react to urgent situations.
The physician who
examines you is, in many cases, a pilot himself. He is specially
selected by the FAA for his knowledge of "flight medicine." Your
examiner is just one of a network of AMEs (Aviation Medical Examiners)
located throughout the country. Whenever you have a question about
health a problem which could affect flight safety, consult him - he is
anxious to serve you. And he is as important to safe flight as the
preflight check of your aircraft or the weather briefing.
During the examination,
special attention is focused upon correct functioning of the vital
organs and parts of the body most critical to flying. These include the
eyes, lungs, heart, ears, and the muscular and nervous systems. This
doesn't mean that you have to be a perfect physical specimen. Some
defects can be waived if your performance as a pilot is unimpaired.
Primarily, the AME
wishes to discover any physical condition which could threaten safe
flight by causing pilot disability - such as epilepsy, heart trouble, or
diabetes. Disorders such as acute infections, anaemia, and peptic ulcers
may be only temporarily disqualifying. Generally, corrected vision,
dentures, or certain minor ailments are not an obstacle to
Unlike pilots in the
military services who have flight surgeons monitoring their health
regularly, or airline pilots with their own medical departments, you are
largely on your own to judge when you should or should not fly. So,
evaluation of fitness for flight becomes more of a personal matter in
your case. The AME can find major problems only when your certificate
comes up for renewal, or when consulted. The rest of the time, you alone
must evaluate your flying capabilities.
Include in your
occasional "required reading" list the Federal Aviation Regulations
(61.45 and 63.19) described on the back of your medical certificate
(which has probably been tucked away in your walled since its issue).
These regulations place the responsibility for determining physical
fitness upon the pilot. They state that no person may act as a pilot
when he has a known physical deficiency which would make him unable to
meet the physical requirements for his medical certificate.
In other words, if you
can't pass the flight physical today, you shouldn't fly today! It is up
to you to know when a physical deficiency or temporary illness might
interfere with aircraft operation. If you are unsure, a brief
consultation with the AME will quickly clear up any doubts.