A story in Sport Aviation raised many questions from readers. The writer had been told that he had a disqualifying medical condition. He then went on to build an E-LSA that he could fly as a Sport Pilot using his driver’s license as medical qualification.
Many readers jumped to the conclusion that the writer had been denied a medical certificate. If that had been the case, he would not be eligible to fly as a Sport Pilot using his driver’s license.
But the story never said he was denied. It said he was told by the doc he didn’t qualify. That is a very different issue. Any wise pilot will talk to a medical expert before they ever fill out the FAA Form 8500, the application for a medical certificate.
Once the medical application is submitted—and you can only do it online now—you can’t take it back. There are only three possible results after the application is in the system and those are approval, denial or deferral. And the deferral can only be for a limited time while additional information is collected.
The actual physical exam is not likely to uncover many disqualifying conditions. Perhaps your blood pressure may be too high, but that can typically be successfully handled by your AME. Or maybe the urine test could discover diabetes you were unaware of. But the reality is the application form is essentially what determines whether you will get the medical certificate or not.
We all know, for example, that most common heart and circulatory conditions such as bypass surgery or stents or strokes are disqualifying. But nowhere in the FARs will you read that many types of cancer are also disqualifying, for example. You can almost always get a medical after a cancer has been successfully treated, but it will go through the special issuance process, take time, and a number of medical reports. Put down on the application that you have had doctor visits to treat a cancer, and most likely you will be denied by the AME.
That is the type of information you need to know before you fill out the medical application. You want to know that you have a disqualifying condition in advance so that you don’t submit the application and be surprised. You need to plan your future. Do you want to go through the process of getting a special issuance certificate with the added medical testing and probably some limitations, or do you want to fly under the Sport Pilot standards? Those are the questions you should ask, and answer, before submitting the medical application.
The rules require that to fly as a Sport Pilot using the driver’s license as a medical you can’t have a disqualifying condition. And you can’t have been denied a medical certificate after applying. Those two sound like the same thing, but they are not.
For example, if you have one of the all too common heart problems that would be disqualifying on a medical application and applied for the medical certificate, you would be denied. That means you would have to get a special issuance certificate before you could fly Sport Pilot. But, if you have your heart condition successfully treated, and are cleared by your physician to resume driving and other normal activity, you no longer have the disqualifying condition and can fly as a Sport Pilot.
If you have the same successful treatment and want a medical certificate you will need to wait typically six months, and then apply for a special issuance medical. You won’t need more actual treatment to get the special medical, just lots of paperwork and probably additional tests that your own doctor won’t require.
Bottom line is to keep control of your options know what your medical status is and don’t apply for a medical certificate until you have a plan. EAA members can call headquarters and get advice from the EAA aeromedical council. Or you can search online at faa.gov to see more about disqualifying conditions. Or you can look for an AME with experience in handling special issuance medicals and talk before you fill out the application. Or you can hire one of several services that will help you prepare for the special issuance.
Whatever you do don’t fill out that FAA medical application without knowing the outcome in advance and having a plan. You should know that you qualify, or don’t, before you ever submit the application. If you plan to go the special issuance route you will be initially denied or deferred on your application, but at that time you have your reports and other paperwork in order and can minimize the hassle factor. If you are happy to fly on as a Sport Pilot get the medical treatment you need, regain your health, and never touch that medical application again.
This will be even more important if the FAA grants the EAA/AOPA petition to allow pilots to fly day VFR in a single engine airplane with 180 hp or less, no more than four seats, and carrying no more than one passenger. Many thousands of pilots commented favorably on the petition and it is still under consideration by the FAA. Approving that petition would do more to reduce the hassle and cost of the way so many pilots fly than anything I can think of.