Now You Can Make a Big Difference

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

In an early February meeting of the FAA's principal aeromedical certification staff, including myself, with representatives of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association, and the Experimental Aircraft Association, there was a wide-ranging discussion of possible mechanisms for speeding the certification process. As AMEs, you will be hearing more about some of these initiatives over the coming months. In this column, I want to emphasize an important area where you can often make a difference.

Your job, of course, is to identify items of history or physical findings that are disqualifying, according to the published standards, or that suggest the need for further evaluation. The Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners includes many examples of medical history for which it recommends deferral of certification to the Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City. You have been instructed at AME seminars that, if in doubt about an airman's eligibility, you should defer to the FAA. This is often the best advice and definitely plays it safe.

However, many applicants for certification have recovered from medical conditions that are now remote in time or were of minor significance and which, in the absence of current activity, should have no bearing on the individual's eligibility for certification-even though the Guide may tell you to defer certification. Since deferral usually means a delay in certification of at least several weeks, even though these applications receive priority handling in Oklahoma City, you may be able to spare the pilot this burden through a little extra effort on his or her behalf.

With the applicant still in your office, if possible, contact your Regional Flight Surgeon's office by phone and describe the history obtained, your pertinent positive or negative findings, and your recommendation for certification. With appropriate discussion, the Regional Office is often able to authorize the issuance of a certificate immediately, saving everyone a lot of time, effort, and sometimes, frustration. If the Regional Office authorizes you to issue a certificate, record that under ITEM 60 of the application form (include the name of the FAA staff member who authorized the issuance) and forward the form, together with other pertinent medical information, to the Aeromedical Certification Division. The application still will be further reviewed and additional requests for information may be made by the FAA, but the pilot will have the certificate in hand.

We plan to revise the Guide, and one of our objectives is to identify those conditions where the AME should be allowed to make the certification decision without deferring to the FAA. In the meantime, however, you can make a big difference for the airman by taking a little extra initiative and contacting your Regional Flight Surgeon's office for advice and direction.