FAA Flight Physicals

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, 2015, then the certificate would expire on July 31, 2016.

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 examinations are typically reserved for commercial airline transport pilots, but are requested by most First Officers and many business aviation flight crews.

Class II examinations are required for commercial pilots, including business aviation flight crew, crop dusters, aerial advertising pilots, charter pilots, or navigators and first officers of commercial airline flights.

Class III examinations are mainly 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 calendar months if younger than age 40 at the time of evaluation; 24 calendar months if age 40 or older at the time of evaluation

Applying for an FAA Medical Certificate

Pilots must complete the FAA Medical Application (Form 8500-8) online at www.faa.gov by following the instructions for "MedXpress."

After your examination, the Aviation Medical Examiner may do one of the following:

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

In some cases, the FAA will require that supporting material be sent to its office. Mayo flight examiners typically forward such material on behalf of the pilot in one correspondence to the FAA. That's why it's important that you bring to your Mayo Clinic appointment all the records of evaluations performed outside of Mayo Clinic that pertain to a possibly disqualifying condition.

In certain cases, Mayo Clinic flight examiners will assist in expediting the flight physical by contacting the FAA directly. Having a Mayo Clinic flight physician connect with personnel at the FAA for Special Issuance waivers will typically result in additional fees, but it also often significantly accelerates the waiting time to become medically certified.

Sept. 16, 2015