Do I need a medical exam to be a pilot?

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
2 min read

If you’ve talked to other pilots, you may have heard about “the medical.” Don’t worry—you do not have to have perfect health or 20/20 vision. Recreational and Private pilots who are just starting out do need to pass a basic medical exam from an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). FAA Medical Certificate’s are issued by an FAA Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  AME’s are physicians with a special interest in aviation safety and have training in aviation medicine. There are hundreds of AMEs across the country, and you’ll most likely find one very close to your home – here’s a helpful tool.

Your flight physical will be a brief medical exam, including tests of your hearing, vision and blood pressure. Before you visit the AME, make sure to fill out the FAA’s MedXPress online form. Typically, you’ll receive your medical on the spot. If you have any condition that may be medically disqualifying or could slow your medical approval, do not visit your AME before meeting with and discussing your options with someone like a flight instructor or flight school manager.  Alternatively, you can contact a resource like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to discuss your situation. They have experts available to help find your best route for success in the medical certification process.

Some conditions that can be disqualifying or could slow your medical approval include but are not limited to:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Meniere´s Decease check here
  • Nervous Disorders
  • History of Kidney Stones
  • Emotional or Mental Disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Uncorrectable Vision
  • Certain Levels of Hearing Loss
  • History of Alcohol or Drug Dependence
  • Any condition that could impair your ability to operate an aircraft safely

For more information, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has a helpful page with tips, videos and an online tool.

Once you’ve passed an initial medical exam (and at all times for the Sport Pilot Certificate), you can self-certify your medical fitness. For Sport Pilots, a driver’s license and a personal assessment of your health is all that is needed. For Recreational and Private Pilots, there are a few more requirements, but it’s still fairly easy.

Read our entire Getting Started series for more answers.

John Zimmerman