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Pilot Maintenance

“Aerospace Medicine and You” Magazine Issue

FAA Safety Briefing
Cleared for Takeoff
5 min readJan 3, 2022
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By Robert C. (Rico) Carty, FAA Flight Standards Service Acting Executive Director

If you are anything like me, you probably think of going to the doctor with the same kind of reluctance you might have for, say, launching into lousy weather. But where avoiding bad weather in a small GA airplane can help you stay alive, skipping or delaying visits to your doctor could have the opposite effect.

Photo of doctor.

A key part of remaining physically healthy is an activity that is similar to the things you do to keep your airplane mechanically sound: constant monitoring and regular maintenance. One of the earliest skills we learn as pilots is to recognize and address small signs (e.g., why is that gauge reading low?) before they become big problems (e.g., my engine just quit!). Regular visits to the doctor are an important part of keeping your flying physiology in top form, so you can find and address little problems before they become more serious.

Many pilots, though, have perhaps been hesitant to fully communicate with their doctors for fear of complicating issuance of the all-important medical certificate. But we have all benefited from several developments over the past few years.

Continuous Improvement

First is the hard work the FAA’s medical certification staff has done over the past few years, not only to speed consideration of special issuance but also to expand both the range of certifiable conditions and the avenues available. These include AASI (AME Assisted Special Issuance) and CACI (Conditions AMEs Can Issue). The list of CACI-eligible conditions is expanding and, as you will read elsewhere in this issue, all kinds of other improvements to the medical certification process are in the works.

Second is the FAA’s Compliance Program, first introduced in 2015. The Compliance Program is the enabling guidance for the FAA’s risk-based oversight approach to compliance. It stresses a problem-solving approach where enhancement of the individual or organization’s safety performance is the goal. It promotes communication, collaboration, and proactive risk management to find safety problems before they cause an accident and use the most effective tools to ensure a positive, permanent fix. This approach certainly applies to managing your health. It has always been the case that the FAA expects compliance on medical requirements, and it has always been the case that compliance includes honest communication about issues that affect your health, and thus your ability to operate an aircraft safely.

Third is the advent of BasicMed. BasicMed leaves no excuse for anything but a full and frank discussion with your state-licensed physician about your health. BasicMed (as well as the traditional avenues to medical certification) is about using open communication with your provider to find any health problems that could adversely affect your ability to operate an aircraft safely, to use the most appropriate treatments to fix those problems, and to monitor results to ensure that any health/safety issues are fully resolved.


There are lots of resources available nowadays from both the FAA and aviation community organizations. If you think you might have an issue, here are some things you can do.

🥼 Get the facts. Use all available resources to learn as much as you can about the certification implications of your particular medical condition. A good place to start is the medical certification home page on the FAA’s website. You can also access the FAA MedXPress form from this page.

❤️ Use your resources. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and many other aviation organizations provide medical certification information, advice, and advocacy for their members.

🏁 Resolve the problem. Work with your physician to resolve any issues that might delay issuance of your medical certificate.

📃 Document. Learn exactly what the FAA needs to certify your condition. Have your physician document your condition, your treatment, and your prognosis in precisely the format and level of detail the FAA requires.

Doing your part will speed the FAA’s evaluation and get you back on the flight deck as quickly as possible.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
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FAA Safety Briefing
Cleared for Takeoff

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. The magazine is part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).