There is a lot of criteria involved in getting a FAA Medical. I am not...and will never be an authority on the subject. Every person has unique circumstances that could disqualify them from getting a medical. Additionally someone might have an issue which they think MIGHT disqualify them when in reality it doesn't.
My airline requires pilots to be examined by an FAA approved medical examiner (AME):
- Captains - once each six months if over age 40 or once each 12 months if they are under 40
- First Officers - Once a year
As far as which class of medical is required; Captains must always have a First Class Medical. First Officers are required to have at least a Second Class Medical Certificate. It is my responsibility to have a current First Class Medical Certificate prior to the beginning of Captain training.
My first experience with an AME was horrible. I was getting ready to start training at ATP. I used FlightPhysical.com to find an AME. Just my "luck" there was one less than a mile from my house. I made an appointment for the next day. At the time I drank a lot of coffee, smoked and never exercised. ATP recommended me getting a First Class Medical to make sure I would qualify for one later down the road. I have qualified for one every time since.
When I arrived the Dr. seemed "off". He had not done a flight physical in quite some time. After the eye test and getting my vitals, he told me my blood pressure was borderline high. At the time it was 140/95. Yeah...high. I explained that I had a really stressful day at work and had chugged down a bunch of coffee right before I came.
The next thing I knew I was laying on a table getting my chest shaved! I was 29 years old and he was getting ready to give me an EKG exam! The results were to be transmitted to Oklahoma, City and I would be notified if the medical would be denied. I paid the $195 for that exam!
I left there even more stressed out. All my life I wanted to be a pilot. Suddenly the door was closing. Saying I was a little depressed would be putting it lightly.
Everything turned out okay. My blood pressure was border line hypertension.
With diet, coffee, exercise, and quitting smoking, I am now down to 118/75. No drugs needed. Okay coffee wasn't part of my lowering of blood pressure...but I refuse to give it up! Every other week there is a story on the news about the benefits of coffee!
Since then I found a better AME. My current AME is a no-nonsense doctor. He charges a flat $35 and is very efficient. Many pilots at my airline use him.
As far as my health. I wear contacts. That's about it. I don't take any medications. And with my blood pressure under control....I'm just an average guy.
A word of caution for those that think they might have a disqualifying condition. Don't go to an AME to find out. If you get examined by an AME for purposes of getting a physical, they must report the results to the FAA. A better way to find out is to use the FAA.gov website...it's way easy to find information. Okay so it's no where near easy....but it's better than it used to be. Another way is to anonymously ask an AME. How so? Well Jetcareers.com has a Ask A Flight Surgeon. Before asking a question, just browse what has already been asked. Chances are there is someone out there with the same issue.
One thing I don't care about the FAA medical process is the piece of paper it's printed on. I have a "Costanza" wallet (Seinfeld reference). My wallet at any one time has receipts dating back several years. No reason why. Ignorance really. My friends often make fun of my huge wallet....it's painful to sit on. There isn't much money in there.....just crap. Anyways keeping track of this little slip of paper is a challenge for me. I am going to look into laminating my next medical. I haven't lost a medical slip yet...but I've gotten close.
My current medical expires on the 16th. I am going in on the 12th to get a new one.