Part 67 Revisions Big Improvement

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

On September 16, revised part 67, Medical Standards and Certification, goes into effect. After years of waiting, aviation medical examiners (AMEs) have a new set of rules to guide their medical certification practices.

While I have received some expressions of concern from AMEs regarding the impact of these changes in the conduct of examinations and certification decision making, I wish to assure you that the effects of the changes on your practice will be minimal.

First, you should be aware that persons desiring third-class airman medical certification now will be applying only every 3 years until their 40th birthday. This requires no new action on your part except to be able to advise airmen when their certificates expire. Where the date of examination printed on the third-class certificate is earlier than September 16, 1996, or if the person is age 40 or over, it expires (as before) at the end of the 24th month after the month of the date of examination. Where the date of examination is September 16, 1996, or later, this becomes the end of the 36th month, if the person has not yet reached his or her 40th birthday. First- and second-class certificates remain unchanged as to period of validity.

Second, the scope of examination remains unchanged except for the intermediate vision testing requirement for first- and second-class applicants. The new standards require testing of these applicants at 32 inches. The vision test card that has been in use since 1993 (AAM Form 8500.1) accommodates this requirement. In addition, the Titmus vision screener, Models T2A, T2S, TII, and TIIS, has available an intermediate vision lens unit that meets the testing requirement, as does the Optec 2000. Also, the uncorrected distance vision standard for first- and second-class applicants has been deleted, and the whispered voice test has been replaced by other hearing tests.

Third, a few additional medical conditions now will be listed in part 67 as disqualifying, and changes have been made in the regulations that will impact decision-making regarding persons who have a history of alcohol and drug abuse. For the most part, however, certification decisions should be handled as in the past — you will either deny the applicant a certificate or, more often, defer action to the Federal Aviation Administration when the applicant has a significant medical finding.

You will find that most of the condition-specific instructions in the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners will remain unchanged and will still be followed. Changes coming soon to your AME Guide will provide instructions on your administration of the new standards and, we anticipate, will simplify the certification process in a number of areas. In general, you’re unlikely to have a problem with the changes, but I recommend that you take time to carefully review the new Guide and to familiarize yourself with the new regulations, which you should have already received.

As a final note, airmen now will hold what is termed an “Authorization for Special Issuance of A Medical Certificate,” rather than a letter from this agency when granted certification in the presence of a medical condition that is disqualifying under the regulations. The Authorization will work the same as our current letters, however, and will provide you with the necessary information for use in determining the applicant’s certification status. Statements of Demonstrated Ability will continue to be issued where appropriate and still permit you to issue a medical certificate when the listed static medical condition has not changed, and the person is otherwise qualified.

I strongly believe that the new regulations will make medical certification procedures less burdensome for airmen and more efficient for AMEs and the FAA. While our primary goal is aviation safety, it remains incumbent upon us to also assure prompt and trouble-free medical certification of all airmen whose medical condition permits safe performance in the aviation system.