FAA Flight Physicals

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A pilot must meet minimum safety standards in terms of physical and mental condition as determined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). When a designated physician determines that the pilot meets the standards for a successful flight physical, the pilot is issued a medical certificate identifying that individual as meeting those specific standards.

FAA medical certificate requirements

The FAA has mandated the physical and psychological standards that must be met prior to granting certification for individuals acting as pilot in command or serving as required crew members of any type of aircraft, including student pilots. Certain FAA employees such as air traffic controllers must hold a valid Airman Medical Certificate. Some employers, including businesses not engaged in aviation, require their employees to meet FAA flight physical standards (for example, certain types of maritime operators).

Barring any changes in a pilot's medical status, each class of examination has a specific expiration date as outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR part 61.23). The validity of each exam class is based on a calendar month. For example, if a pilot is evaluated for a Second-Class Medical Certificate on July 4, 2009, then the certificate would expire on July 31, 2010.

Three Classes

There are three classes of FAA medical certificates, each with a more restrictive set of physical standards. Any pilot may apply for any class of medical certification, but most pilots apply for the class most applicable to their flying activity.

Class I examination is typically reserved for scheduled commercial airline transport pilots.

Class II examination is required for commercial pilots, including corporate aviators, crop dusters, aeromedical pilots, charter pilots, or navigators and first officers of commercial airline flights.

Class III examinations are used for recreational or private pilots.

Length of certification

Class I: 6 calendar months if older than age 40 at the time of evaluation; 12 months if younger than age 40

Class II: 12 calendar months

Class III: 60 months if younger than age 40 at the time of evaluation; 24 months if age 40 or older at the time of evaluation

Applying for a FAA medical certificate

Pilots may complete the FAA Medical Application form
(8-500-8) online at www.faa.gov by following the instructions for "MedXpress."

Alternatively, Mayo Clinic's Aerospace Medicine program will provide the necessary application forms on your arrival. After your examination, the Aviation Medical Examiner may:

  • Issue a certificate if you meet the standards for certification,
  • Deny certification if you have a disqualifying medical condition, or
  • Defer final determination to the Aeromedical Certification Division of the FAA in Oklahoma City.

In some cases, supporting material will be required to be sent to the FAA. The airman should be certain that all the records of evaluations performed outside of Mayo Clinic that pertain to a possibly disqualifying condition are brought to the appointment. Mayo flight examiners typically forward materials on behalf of the pilot in one correspondence to the FAA.