Executive Flight Physicals

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Executive flight physicals, performed on pilots of corporate flight departments and other professional organizations, are an extension of Mayo's Executive Health Program. This program design makes it possible to combine a comprehensive preventive health examination with the forensic aspects of the FAA flight physical while using examiners who are familiar with and understand the importance of appropriate reporting and expeditious processing of pilot data.

Certain medical conditions may be disqualifying for pilots under FAA regulations. However, with waivers termed "Special Issuance Authorizations," pilots may continue to fly with a time-limited certificate.

Hundreds of flight physicals are performed at Mayo each year on pilots of major commercial airline carriers, corporate pilots from many companies affiliated with the Executive Health Program, agricultural spray pilots, charter operators and recreational pilots. Mayo flight examiners pride themselves on speaking the language of aviation. The flight examiners at Mayo are mostly active or retired pilots, some with extensive military training. As pilots, they understand the importance of maintaining an active medical certificate.

Corporations that send their pilots to Mayo do so because they believe that the pilots represent some of the most valuable human resources within the company. As such, corporate human resources directors have established relationships with Mayo to assure that their corporate pilots undergo state-of-the-art preventive health as well as aviation examinations.

Many pilots tend to avoid any medical surveillance because they fear losing their FAA medical certificates. This avoidance has resulted in these pilots receiving substandard medical care. Unmet and unaddressed medical needs are a far greater risk to a pilot's career than a combination of well-planned preventive and aviation examinations. The best insurance for protection against unexpected medical issues for the pilot is to become involved with a program of early detection, which usually results in the discovery of medical conditions at a stage compatible with continuing aviation duties. From the standpoint of aviation safety alone, corporations expect the cockpit crews to have acceptable health. They recognize that corporate aircraft are transporting the company's most valuable resources — its leaders.

Companies have pursued various arrangements with Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic. Although many firms elect to send their pilots for examinations at Mayo annually (alternating at six-month intervals with a local Aviation Medical Examiner), several companies send pilots for flight physicals every six months.

As pilots age, certain medical conditions inevitably arise. The vast majority of these conditions are not disqualifying for flight physicals, especially if recognized early and treated. However, if a potentially disqualifying condition occurs, the pilots participating in the Mayo Clinic program agree that they want to see the best flight examiners available in order to stay in the cockpit safely — precisely the thrust of Mayo Aerospace Medicine's mission. Mayo offers the ability to seamlessly combine the best medical care with the specialized knowledge and experience of top practicing flight surgeons.