Mayo Clinic's Aerospace Medicine program supports aviation safety by providing comprehensive care, specialized aeromedical consulting, biomedical research, and education for businesses and people in the aviation industry. It also offers specialized programs for aviation personnel and passengers on the ground and in the air.

The Aerospace Medicine program offers a full range of services, including:

  • FAA flight physicals.
  • FAA Special Issuance assistance.
  • Aviation disability evaluations.
  • Fitness-for-duty and return to work evaluations for airlines, flight departments and pilot unions.
  • Medical assessments for civilian space flight.
  • Aviation Medical Director services for flight departments.
  • Pre-employment assessments.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
  • Altitude physiology research.
  • Consultations for mountain illness treatment and prevention.
  • Mayo Clinic Clear Approach for pilots who have questions about medical certification.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) trains and certifies the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). The FAA has designated certain Mayo physicians with a minimum of three years of accurately performing flight physicals as Senior Aviation Medical Examiners (SAMEs). SAMEs are qualified to perform Class I examinations, which meet the standard for commercial airline transport pilots.

Mayo Clinic also features several AMEs who are trained in providing care to pilots in the Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS). This type of care is required for certain pilots with prior substance abuse issues or aviators prescribed antidepressant medicines monitored by the Federal Air Surgeon's Office.

FAA flight physicals

A pilot must meet minimum safety standards in terms of physical and mental condition as determined by the 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 outlines the minimum standards to qualify for an FAA medical. Certain aviation professions or employers may require an individual to hold a valid medical certificate as part of their employment. The Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR part 61.23) establish the criteria for those requiring an FAA medical, and the duration of each medical class.

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

  • FAA Class I Medical
    • Most applicants are typically Airline Transport Pilots (ATP), business aviation pilots and those pursuing a career in aviation.
  • FAA Class II Medical
    • Most applicants are commercial pilots with careers in flight instruction, agricultural application, charter aviation and other types of flying where a pilot is paid for their service.
  • FAA Class III Medical
    • Most applicants are mainly recreational or private pilots.
  • FAA BasicMed
    • Mayo Clinic does not offer FAA BasicMed evaluations.

Applying for an FAA Medical Certificate

Pilots must complete the FAA Medical Application (Form 8500-8) online at FAA MedXPress when applying for an FAA Medical Certificate. Applicants will receive a confirmation number when the application is complete. This confirmation number will be needed by your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

After your examination, the AME may do one of the following:

  • Issue a certificate if the applicant meets the minimum requirements for the medical class applied for.
  • Defer to the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division for review and eligibility. This is usually due to a medical condition that requires additional review by the FAA before a decision can be made.
  • Deny certification if the applicant does not meet minimum medical requirements. We will make every attempt to address medical conditions in advance of a medical application to minimize a denial.

The FAA may require additional medical information with a medical application. The Mayo Clinic AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) includes all supporting medical information, test results and imaging related to the FAA medical application. Please bring all applicable medical records to your appointment or arrange for them to be sent to your AME before your appointment to minimize any delays in reviewing medical records and submitting your medical application.

Aviation disability evaluations

Pilots may encounter medical conditions that are temporarily or permanently disabling. Flight physicians at Mayo Clinic perform forensic assessments of pilots who have physical impairments. These pilots may be referred to us by major aviation disability insurance administrators, corporate flight departments or commercial airlines. Physicians confirm accurate diagnoses, establish the presence or absence of maximal medical improvement, and recommend treatment or next steps.

Medical assessments for civilian spaceflight

The inherent physiologic stresses of space flight, and the limited capability for medical care on board, require a standardized system for medical assessments of people who may take part in civilian space tourism. Mayo has specialists in these preflight medical assessments. It also offers an expedited service model through the existing Executive Health Program.

The goal is to provide a full, individualized, protocol-driven aerospace medical assessment to determine the medical risks and risk mitigation strategies for people who plan to fly into space. Specialists in internal medicine and aerospace medicine can complete a thorough assessment in 2 to 3 days.

Preplacement special assessments

Mayo flight physicians perform special medical assessments for screening programs tailored to the needs of the requesting organization. Professional pilot recruiting firms refer pilots to Mayo Clinic for full medical exams before being hired to work for airlines on a temporary or permanent basis. Mayo Clinic flight surgeons also perform forensic evaluations on people who serve in ground crew support functions involving safety-sensitive maneuvers.

Nov. 21, 2023