Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners

Application Process for Medical Certification

General Information - Legal Responsibilities of Designated Aviation Medical Examiners

Title 49, United States Code (U.S.C.) (Transportation), sections
109(9), 40113(a), 44701-44703, and 44709 (1994) formerly codified in the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended, authorizes the FAA Administrator to delegate to qualified private persons; i.e. designated Examiners, matters related to the examination, testing, and inspection necessary to issue a certificate under the U.S.C. and to issue the certificate. Designated Examiners are delegated the Administrator's authority to examine applicants for airman medical certificates and to issue or deny issuance of certificates.

Approximately 450,000 applications for airman medical certification are received and processed each year. The vast majority of medical examinations conducted in connection with these applications are performed by physicians in private practice who have been designated to represent the FAA for this purpose. An Examiner is a designated representative of the FAA Administrator with important duties and responsibilities. It is essential that Examiners recognize the responsibility associated with their appointment.

At times, an applicant may not have an established treating physician and the Examiner may elect to fulfill this role. You must consider your responsibilities in your capacity as an Examiner as well as the potential conflicts that may arise when performing in this dual capacity.

The consequences of a negligent or wrongful certification, which would permit an unqualified person to take the controls of an aircraft, can be serious for the public, for the Government, and for the Examiner. If the examination is cursory and the Examiner fails to find a disqualifying defect that should have been discovered in the course of a thorough and careful examination, a safety hazard may be created and the Examiner may bear the responsibility for the results of such action.

Of equal concern is the situation in which an Examiner deliberately fails to report a disqualifying condition either observed in the course of the examination or otherwise known to exist. In this situation, both the applicant and the Examiner in completing the application and medical report form, may be found to have committed a violation of Federal criminal law which provides that:
"Whoever in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or who makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or entry, may be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both" (Title 18 U.S. Code.
Secs. 1001; 3571).

Cases of falsification may be subject to criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice. This is true whether the false statement is made by the applicant, the Examiner, or both. In view of the pressures sometimes placed on Examiners by their regular patients to ignore a disqualifying physical defect that the physician knows to exist, it is important that all Examiners be aware of possible consequences of such conduct.

In addition, when an airman has been issued a medical certificate that should not have been issued, it is frequently necessary for the FAA to begin a legal revocation or suspension action to recover the certificate. This procedure is time consuming and costly. Furthermore, until the legal process is completed, the airman may continue to exercise the privileges of the certificate, thereby compromising aviation safety.
Last updated: Thursday, December 2, 2010