One prominent fear among would-be and veteran pilots alike is to not be issued (or to lose) their FAA medical certification. Sadly, this can result in some pilots opting to lie on their medical assessments.
Read on for insights into how the FAA helps ensure public safety by ensuring that pilots are medically qualified to fly.
Does the FAA Check Medical Records?
What are the odds of getting caught if a pilot lies on his or her FAA medical assessment? What are the consequences if a pilot is caught lying?
These are more frequently asked questions that pilots frequently have concerning the FAA’s medical certification processes and policies.
Generally speaking, the FAA doesn’t check medical records unless they have a pressing reason to – i.e. if a pilot discloses something that warrants further information or investigation, or if there is an incident/accident/disciplinary action that could possibly pose a threat to passengers. In those instances, the FAA will follow up with a thorough investigation.
If the FAA finds out that a pilot has failed to disclose something that he or she should have disclosed, not only does it mean that you can lose your license to fly, but you may also face criminal prosecution and hefty fines.
What Are the FAA’s Medical Reporting Requirements
Usually what happens is that pilots don’t intentionally lie or withhold relevant information, but rather that they are not always aware of exactly WHAT they need to report to the FAA.
As indicated by “Pilot Self-Grounding Requirements” (CFR 61.53), licensed pilots have the responsibility and expectation to “ground” themselves and report to the FAA any changes in their medical conditions before they are able to fly again.
The FAA states that pilots must ground themselves “if they are unable to meet the requirements for the FAA medical certificate,” but that is extremely vague. It’s easy to see why so many pilots may inadvertently get themselves into trouble. The best thing any pilot in doubt can do for him or herself is to visit an aviation medical examiner (AME).
What If a Pilot Has a Medical Condition?
If a pilot has a medical condition that requires him or her to be grounded, then a form 8500-8 can be filled out. AMEs are also required to report any changes in medical condition to the FAA. If there are no changes, there is nothing to report. For aviation students pursuing their first medical certification, or for any pilot needing to renew a license, the same expectations go.
An Application known as the Airman Medical Certification (also known as MedXPress form or Form 8500-8), needs to be completed by the pilot/applicant prior to seeing an AME. In this application, any conditions that could potentially affect a pilot’s ability to fly safely need to be disclosed openly. At this point, the FAA requires more detailed medical information/history before they can determine if someone qualifies for a medical certification.
In short, the FAA is not currently able to directly view anyone’s medical records without their knowledge or approval.
BUT, if a pilot is involved in an accident, incident or some other disciplinary action, he or she become subject to the FAA and any other necessary authorities, who will take the time to investigate. Undisclosed issues will undoubtedly surface and further disciplinary action is completely possible.
What Are FAA Medically Disqualifying Conditions?
The FAA is very clear regarding what counts as disqualifying conditions, so “ignorance” is not a viable excuse for non-disclosure. The FAA’s list of disqualifying conditions for which a pilot can and should be grounded (at least temporarily) include:
- Angina pectoris
- Substance abuse
- Substance dependence
- Cardiac valve replacement
- Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been shown to be symptomatic or clinically significant
- Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
- Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of the cause
- Heart replacement
- Myocardial infarction
- Permanent cardiac pacemaker
- Bipolar disorder
- A personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt behaviors
- Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without a satisfactory explanation of the cause
Does the FAA Have Access to Pilots’ Medical Histories?
The FAA is not authorized to release medical information and investigate an incident, accident or pilot’s disciplinary action without an order from a court of competent jurisdiction, written permission from the pilot to whom it applies, or, without the individual’s knowledge. This applies during litigation of matters related to certification.
Can the FAA Request Medical Records from a Pilot’s Personal Physician?
The FAA is NOT authorized to request a pilot’s records from his or her personal physician without a valid court order, written consent of the pilot in question, or without his or her knowledge.
Does FAA Review Medical Records?
The FAA only reviews pilot medical records if the pilot has been involved in an accident, an incident, or some other disciplinary action. Otherwise, it is expected that pilots disclose any and all conditions that could possibly keep them grounded.
How Often Does the FAA Review a Pilot’s Medical Records?
The FAA can only review pilot medical records if the pilot has been involved in an accident, an incident, or some other disciplinary action. Otherwise, it is expected that pilots disclose any and all conditions that could possibly keep them grounded.
Does HIPAA Apply to the FAA?
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ( HIPAA ) and Examiner s activities for FAA dictate specific patient protections and, depending upon an Examiner’s activation and practice patterns, may require a pilot to comply with additional requirements.
Can a Pilot With an Expired Medical Certification Still Fly?
No, a pilot’s medical certification must be valid in order for them to legally fly. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires pilots to hold a valid medical certificate to act as a pilot in command or co-pilot of an aircraft. The medical certificate is issued by an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and must be renewed at regular intervals depending on the pilot’s age and the class of medical certificate held. If a pilot’s medical certification expires, they are not legally permitted to fly until they obtain a new certificate.
What Medical Information Does the FAA Require for a Pilot’s Medical Certification?
In addition to vision, hearing, and general health, the AME also assesses cardiovascular health. Additionally, the AME will assess whether there is a risk of a pilot becoming incapacitated during flight or if there are other reasons for the denial.
- Here is an example of some of the information required for a first-class medical certificate (for a pilot aged 40 or over):
- The pilot’s personal and medical history, including information about any previous illnesses or surgeries
- Results of a physical examination, including measurements of height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse
- Results of laboratory tests, including tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Results of an electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Information about any medications the pilot is currently taking
- Information about any medical conditions or treatments that may affect the pilot’s ability to operate an aircraft safely
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a glimpse of what the FAA requires. The FAA generally requires pilots to disclose any medical conditions or treatments that may affect their ability to operate an aircraft safely. In addition, they must disclose any conditions or medications that may have side effects that could affect their ability to fly.
For some conditions, pilots may be required to submit additional information, such as additional laboratory tests or reports from specialists. Certain restrictions or special issuance certificates may be issued in certain conditions rather than the standard medical certificate.
Related: Are Pilots and Flight Attendants Trained In CPR?
How Does the FAA Determine Medical Fitness for Pilot Certification?
Pilots are required by the FAA to undergo a medical examination every six months to five years, depending on their flying and age. Pilots’ mental health and fitness to fly are determined by aviation medical examiners.
Can a Pilot’s Medical Certificate be Denied or Suspended Due to Medical Conditions or Medical History?
Yes, a pilot’s Medical certificate can be denied or suspended if the pilot has medical conditions or a medical history that does not meet the standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as described in 14 CFR Part 67.
These regulations specify the medical requirements that pilots must meet to be eligible for a medical certificate. If a pilot has a condition or history that is considered disqualifying according to the regulations, their medical certificate can be denied or suspended.
It’s important to note that pilots must disclose any changes in their medical condition or medications to the FAA even if the condition or medication was not considered disqualifying for the initial certification.
So, Does the FAA Check Medical Records?
Yes and no. The FAA CAN check a pilot’s medical records if the pilot is involved in an incident, accident, or some disciplinary measure. Anything unreported will undoubtedly surface at this point. Pilots are expected to disclose their full medical history and relevant potential issues, and going through an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) is the best thing for them to do. But no, the FAA does not have carte blanche to just check any pilot’s medical records without written consent.