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Learn to Fly - Become a Pilot

Step 1: FAA Medical Certificates

There are three classes of FAA medical certificates and they have different medical standards. The FAA medical standards are listed in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Each pilot, except those who fly gliders or free air balloons, must possess a valid FAA Medical Certificate in order to obtain or exercise the privileges of their pilot certificates and/or ratings. Additionally, air traffic controllers and other designated FAA employees must also have a valid FAA medical certificate.

“Classes” of FAA Medical Certificates:

Third-Class Medical
A third-class medical certificate is required for student, recreational, and private pilots. It has the least restrictive medical standards, which is similar to a basic check-up at the doctor’s office. This certificate is valid for 36 months for applicants under age 40, and 24 months for applicants over age 40. Click here to learn more about the Student Pilot Certificate/Medical Certificate.
Second-Class Medical
A second-class medical certificate is required for commercial pilots, which includes crop dusters, charter pilots, corporate pilots, as well as air traffic controllers, flight navigators, flight engineers, and first officers of commercial airline operators (this can vary by each operator). This certificate is valid for 12 months. After 12 months, it reverts to a third-class medical certificate. Commercial pilots who do not exercise the privileges of their commercial pilot certificate only need a third-class medical certificate.
First-Class Medical
A first-class medical certificate is required for airline transport pilots. This certificate has the most restrictive medical standards, which is valid for 6 months and must be renewed every 6 months. After 6 months (if the certificate is not renewed), it reverts to a second-class medical for another 6 months, and 24 or 36 months for a third-class medical.

Note: If your career goal is to become a professional pilot, it is recommended that you apply for a first-class medical certificate before you start flight training to make sure that you meet the medical standards of this certificate

The cost for a FAA medical certificate range from $80 - $120 depending on your location.

How to obtain a medical certificate.

There are approximately 6,000 Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) throughout the U.S. (and the world) authorized by the FAA to issue airmen medical certificates. To obtain your medical certificate, contact an AME for an appointment. You can locate an AME near you by searching the FAA’s Online AME Directory. You should also seek the advice of fellow pilots when selecting an AME. Normally, the medical examination can be completed within one day. It may take longer if specialized tests must be performed outside the physician's facility.

During your visit, you will be required to complete FAA Form 8500-8 (Download PDF - Adobe Acrobat Reader required). After completing this form, the AME will conduct the medical examination and determine whether or not you meet the medical standards to ensure that you can safely perform the duties of a pilot. If you pass the medical examination, the AME will issue you the medical certificate you scheduled to attain.

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Written by: Sedgwick Hines Copyright 2004-2011 AvScholars Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.



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Learn to Fly: Become a Pilot is your one-stop source to information on flight training, flying lessons, flight schools, and helicopter schools. Learn about the entire flight training process to help you earn your pilot certificates or ratings such as student pilot certificate, commercial pilot certificate, instrument rating, and others.

Copyright © 2003 - 2011 AvScholars Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.