• Aviation Medical Certificate: A Crucial requirement for pilots

    A pilot taking the medical exam

Optimal health and physical condition are essential responsibilities for aviation professionals. Did you know that pilots are less likely to suffer from common illnesses than the general population?

Crew members, including pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers, must undergo a mandatory medical examination in order to obtain or renew their aviation licence with a medical certificate. This ensures the safety and professionalism required to keep passengers safe and emphasises the importance of good health.

This article examines the medical requirements for commercial pilots and the physical and psychological tests required to pass.

Looking for a pilot medical? Stay with us for the best advice on how to ensure a safe and healthy assessment. Let’s get started!

Types of aviation medical certificates

Our country requires three types of medical certificates:

Class 1 Medical Certificate:

Required for commercial pilots holding ATPL and CPL licences.

Class 2 Medical Certificate:

For private pilots with instrument ratings, night flying qualifications, microlight instructors and drone pilots for drones over 25kg.

Class 3 Medical Certificate:

Essential for air traffic controllers, including a sub-category for those providing AFIS services, although less common.

Cabin Crew Medical Certificate (CC):

Required for cabin crew.

LAPL Medical Certificate:

For pilots of light aircraft, including ultralights, balloons or gliders, and drones under 25kg.
Classification is outlined in MED.A.030 of Regulation (EU) 1178/2011 for Class 1 and 2 and Regulation (EU) No 2015/340 for Class 3.

Validity periods for aviation medical certificates

Prior to obtaining your aviation license, a medical assessment is compulsory. However, the aviation medical certificate must be renewed throughout your career, with renewal periods varying by certificate type and age: For Class 1

  • Class 1 Medical Certificate:
    Renewal every 12 months for those under 40, and every 6 months for those over 40.
  • For Class 2 Medical Certificate:
    Renewal every 24 months for individuals under 40, and every 12 months for those aged 41 and above.
  • For Class 3 Medical Certificate:
    Renewal periods match those of Class 2.

Physical and psychological requirements for the Aviation Medical Certificate

The medical assessment for pilots is stringent, reflecting the significant responsibility of piloting an aircraft. However, airlines are not just seeking exceptional individuals but balanced persons capable of efficient and safe teamwork.
Here are the general requirements for a successful pilot medical exam:

General Physical and Psychological Conditions:

No diseases, defects, sequelae, or injuries that could impair normal function, especially in the limbs.

Visual Requirements:

There are specific minimums for distant and near vision, with commercial pilots allowed a refractive error of up to 3 dioptres, correctable with glasses. Private pilots can have up to 6 dioptres.

Auditory Conditions:

A hearing loss margin of up to 20 dB in conversational frequencies and 35 dB at 3000 Hz is permissible.
Flexibility clauses allow medical examiners to assess work capability without compromising safety.

Tests for the Class 1 Medical Certificate

A series of tests evaluate health status for the Class 1 aviation medical certificate, considering the above requirements.

Here, Elvira Peláez from the Alborán Clinic explains what tests are carried out during the Class 1 medical examination.

Tests for the Class 2 Medical Certificate

Similarly, the Class 2 medical examination includes tests to ensure candidates are fully capable of piloting an aircraft safely.

Once again, Elvira Pelaez explains the tests pilots must pass to obtain a Class 2 medical certificate.

Where to undergo the Pilot Medical Examination?

The initial medical examination for pilots and air traffic controllers must be conducted at an Official Medical Centre recognized by the Civil Aviation Authority. Subsequent renewals can be completed at accredited medical centres.

For Class 2 medical certificates, required by private pilots and cabin crew, examinations can be conducted by authorized and accredited aviation medical examiners.

CAA Aviation Medicals: How to get your medical certificate in the UK

Yes! As it happens for EASA-approved medical certificates, the medical examination you must undergo depends on which pilot licence you currently have. So, just as a reminder:

  • CPL, MPL and ATPL licences require a Class 1 medical certificate
  • PPL requires a Class 2 medical certificate. But if you hold a PPL with an instrument rating, you will need to undertake a pure tone audiometry test to the same requirements and frequency as for a class 1 medical.
  • SPL and BPL holders involved in commercial flights must possess a Class 2 medical certificate as well.

Applying for a CAA medical certificate

You must go to an AeMC, AME or your NHS GP with proof of identity. You will be asked to sign a statement containing the following information

  1. Medical facts about your medical history
  2. Whether you have been medically assessed before, by whom and the outcome
  3. Whether you have been assessed as unfit or had a medical certificate suspended or revoked.

Issue, revalidation and renewal of medical certificates

Medical certificates shall not be issued, revalidated or renewed unless a fit assessment has been made by an appropriate medical examiner as follows:

  • For Class 1 Medical Certificate, an appropriate examiner could be an AeMC or AME. And it must be revalidated after 12 months, unless you are 40 years or over and performing single pilot commercial air transport operations carrying passengers, or you are 60 years or over, in which case it is 6 months.
  • In case of Class 2 Certificate, you can undergo your examination at AeMC or AME, and must be revalidated after 60 months until you are 40. If you are issued with a Class 2 medical before the age of 40, it will no longer be valid once you reach the age of 42. If you are between 40 and 50, it is valid for 24 months. If you are issued with a Class 2 medical before the age of 50, it will cease to be valid once you reach the age of 51. If you are 50 or over, it is valid for 12 months.
  • For LAPL medical certification, GP could also be an appropriate examiner, and you must revalidate your certification after 60 months until you are 40. If you are issued with a Class 2 Medical before the age of 40, it will no longer be valid once you reach the age of 42. If you are 40 or over, it is valid for 24 months.

FAA Aviation Medicals: What about getting your medical certificate in the USA?

  • First-Class Medical Certificate is essential for aspiring or current airline pilots. It’s the top tier of medical certification, mandatory for commercial pilots, those over 60 years working as flight crew, and as second-in-command in certain three-pilot crew configurations.
  • Second-Class Medical Certificate is required for pilots operating as second-in-command under an airline transport pilot certificate and those holding commercial pilot certificates, excluding situations covered by the first-class medical.
  • Third-Class Medical Certificate suits pilots engaged in recreational, private, or educational flying. It’s necessary for pilots engaged in those kinds of activities, as well as flight instructors and pilot examiners in specific contexts, ensuring they meet the medical standards for safe flying without the stringent requirements of the higher classes.
  • BasicMed, introduced in 2016, offers an alternative to traditional medical certification for pilots under certain conditions. It allows eligible pilots to fly without a standard medical certificate, given they follow specific operational limitations, such as not flying aircraft seating over six occupants or weighing more than 6,000 pounds, not flying for compensation, staying below 250 knots, and not exceeding 18,000 feet in altitude.

BasicMed requires a physical exam by a state-licensed physician, a medical education course, a valid US driver’s licence, a past third-class medical certificate (post-July 14, 2006), and no history of medical denial.

This structure ensures pilots maintain the health standards necessary for the safety and responsibilities of their particular flying activities, from commercial operations to personal enjoyment.

Seven tips for a safe and healthy medical examination

A healthy lifestyle is paramount when undergoing your medical examination, focusing not just on the certificate but on your overall health.

  • Fast for 10 hours before your appointment, but drink water.
  • Avoid smoking until after the examination.
  • Eat lightly the night before, avoiding fats and alcohol.
  • Don’t take medications before your exam unless necessary; inform your doctor if so.
  • Bring any recent treatment reports to your appointment.
  • Bring your glasses or contact lenses and their prescription.
  • Mention if you’re menstruating, as it may postpone the exam.

Honesty during your medical examination ensures an accurate assessment of your health.

Understanding the Aviation Medical Certificate

A good pilot maintains a balanced diet, exercises regularly, and gets sufficient sleep, contributing to the successful acquisition and renewal of the aviation medical certificate.
Beyond a mere requirement, the aviation medical certificate is a testament to the health and safety standards essential for a fulfilling career in this exciting profession.

If you want to become a pilot, you will find our aviation blog very useful, as it will tell you everything you need to know about how to achieve your dream job.

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