FAA Medical Guide

FAA medical requirements: As an aspiring or experienced pilot, you must be aware of the importance of staying in optimal health to ensure safety in the skies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets specific medical requirements, and obtaining a medical certificate is a crucial step in your aviation journey. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the different types of pilot medicals, address common medical concerns, and provide useful tips and resources for your aviation career.

Introduction to Federal Aviation Administration pilot medicals

The FAA is the governing body responsible for regulating civil aviation within the United States. One of their key responsibilities is ensuring pilots meet certain medical standards. The FAA establishes these standards through a series of medical certification requirements, which are designed to maintain the safety and well-being of both pilots and passengers.

To obtain a medical certificate, pilots must undergo a thorough medical examination by a designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). These exams assess a pilot’s overall health, including their physical and mental well-being. This guide will delve into the different FAA medicals, their validity, and the requirements for various pilot categories.

Understanding different types of FAA medicals

There are several types of FAA medical certificates, each with its specific requirements and privileges. These certificates are classified into Basic Med, First-class, Second-class, and Third-class. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

a. Basic Med

Basic Med is a relatively new alternative to the traditional FAA medical certificates. It was introduced in 2017 to provide a more flexible and accessible option for pilots. To be eligible for Basic Med, pilots must hold a valid U.S. driver’s license, have held a medical certificate at any level after July 14, 2006, and complete an online medical education course every two years. Additionally, pilots must undergo a physical examination by a state-licensed physician every four years.

b. First-class

The First-class medical certificate is the highest level of certification and is required for pilots operating as airline transport pilots (ATP) or those seeking to obtain an ATP certificate. This certificate has the most stringent medical requirements, including specific standards for vision, hearing, cardiovascular health, and mental health.

c. Second-class

Second-class medical certificates are necessary for commercial pilots who do not hold an ATP certificate. This certificate has slightly less stringent requirements than the First-class certificate but still maintains high standards for overall health.

d. Third-class

The Third-class medical certificate is the most basic level of certification and is required for private pilots, recreational pilots, and student pilots. The medical requirements for this certificate are less stringent than the First- or Second-class certificates, making it the most accessible option for many aspiring pilots.

FAA medical certificate validity durations

Each type of FAA medical certificate has a specific validity period, during which the pilot can exercise the privileges associated with their certificate. It is essential to understand these durations to ensure your medical certificate remains valid for your flying activities.

  1. First-class:
    • Under 40 years old: 12 calendar months
    • 40 years and older: 6 calendar months
  2. Second-class:
    • All ages: 12 calendar months
  3. Third-class:
    • Under 40 years old: 60 calendar months
    • 40 years and older: 24 calendar months
  4. Basic Med:
    • All ages: 48 calendar months for the physical examination, 24 calendar months for the online medical education course

Who needs an FAA medical certificate?

All pilots, regardless of their experience level or type of flying, need to obtain an FAA medical certificate. Student, recreational, and private pilots need a Third-class medical certificate, while commercial pilots require a Second-class certificate. Airline transport pilots, or those seeking to become one, must hold a First-class medical certificate.

Basic Med is an alternative option for pilots who meet the eligibility requirements and wish to fly under specific conditions outlined by the FAA, including aircraft weight restrictions and a maximum of five passengers.

Addressing common medical concerns

Pilots often have concerns about certain medical conditions that may impact their ability to obtain or maintain an FAA medical certificate. Let’s address some common medical concerns:

a. FAA medical diabetes

Diabetes can be a disqualifying condition under certain circumstances. However, pilots with diabetes managed through diet, exercise, or oral medications may still be eligible for a medical certificate. Insulin-dependent diabetic pilots may obtain a special issuance authorization, which allows them to fly under specific conditions and monitoring requirements.

b. FAA medical color blindness

Color blindness or color vision deficiency can limit a pilot’s ability to distinguish between colors, which is essential for interpreting aviation charts, signals, and lighting systems. Pilots with color blindness may still be eligible for a medical certificate if they can pass an alternative color vision test or demonstrate their ability to perform aviation tasks that rely on color perception.

c. FAA medical medications

Certain medications may be disqualifying or require special consideration when obtaining an FAA medical certificate. It is crucial to discuss any medications you are taking with your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) during your medical examination to determine if they are compatible with flying.

FAA medical requirements for various pilot categories

The FAA medical requirements vary depending on the type of pilot certificate you are pursuing. Let’s explore these requirements for different pilot categories.

a. Private pilot

Private pilots need a Third-class medical certificate, which assesses their overall health, vision, hearing, and mental well-being. The exam ensures that private pilots can safely operate an aircraft without posing a risk to themselves or others.

b. Instrument rating

Pilots pursuing an instrument rating must hold at least a Third-class medical certificate. The medical requirements are the same as for private pilots, as the instrument rating is an additional qualification for private or commercial pilots.

c. Commercial pilot

Commercial pilots are required to have a Second-class medical certificate. This certificate has higher medical standards than the Third-class certificate, with stricter requirements for vision and overall health.

d. Airline Transport Pilot (ATP)

ATP pilots must hold a First-class medical certificate, which has the most stringent medical requirements among all FAA medical certificates. These requirements ensure that ATP pilots can safely operate large, complex aircraft in a demanding environment.

EASA medicals overview

While this guide focuses on FAA medicals, it’s essential for pilots pursuing a career outside the United States to be aware of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) medical requirements.

a. Types of EASA medicals

EASA medicals are classified into three categories: Class 1 for commercial and ATP pilots, Class 2 for private pilots, and LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilot License) for recreational pilots.

b. EASA medicals validity times

The validity of EASA medicals also varies depending on the type of certificate and the pilot’s age:

  1. Class 1:
    • Under 60 years old: 12 calendar months
    • 60 years and older: 6 calendar months
  2. Class 2:
    • Under 40 years old: 60 calendar months
    • 40-49 years old: 24 calendar months
    • 50 years and older: 12 calendar months
  3. LAPL:
    • Under 40 years old: 60 calendar months
    • 40 years and older: 24 calendar months

Tips for obtaining and maintaining pilot medical certificates

  1. Schedule your medical examination well in advance of when your current certificate is set to expire, as appointments with AMEs can fill up quickly.
  2. Stay updated on changes to FAA medical regulations and requirements.
  3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep.
  4. Discuss any medical concerns or changes in your health with your AME before your examination.
  5. If you have a disqualifying medical condition, consult with your AME or an aviation medical consultant to explore options for special issuance or exemptions.

Resources for pilot medical certificate guidance

  1. FAA’s Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/
  2. AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services: https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/medical-resources/pilot-protection-services
  3. Pilot Medical Solutions: https://www.leftseat.com/

How to apply for an FAA Pilot Medical

Find an FAA Medical Examiner AME

Find an FAA Medical Examiner AME close to you

Register at FAA MedExpress

Register at FAA MedExpress and fill out the application

Fill out FAA MedExpress Application

Fill out the FAA MedExpress application

Disclose medical concerns

Disclose any medical concerns in your application

Schedule a FAA Medical exam

Schedule a FAA Medical Exam for your pilot medical

Receive the FAA Medical

Your FAA AME will issue the FAA Medical.

Estimated Cost: 130 USD


Understanding the Federal Aviation Administration types of pilot medicals is crucial for your aviation career. As a pilot, your health and well-being are paramount to ensuring the safety of all those aboard your aircraft. Stay informed, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and be proactive in addressing any medical concerns. With this guide, you are well-equipped to navigate the world of FAA medical certificates and enjoy a successful and fulfilling career in the skies.

Contact us or call Florida Flyers Team at +1 904 209 3510 to learn more about FAA medical requirements.