Friday, August 28, 2009

Pilot's Fear of Doctors

Most pilots flying today have to have a medical certificate in order to fly. This medical has to be renewed as often as every 6 months for an airline pilot to as long as 5 years for younger private pilots. The FAA wants to make sure that you are fit to fly. They don't want pilots dropping unconscious in the sky, and they want us to be lucid and in control of the airplane. We are all required to self certify for every flight as well. We cannot fly under the influence of any of a cadre of drugs and substances, and even a common cold may be enough of an impediment to keep us on the ground. We should not even fly if we are distracted by work or family issues. We have to treat flying as serious business that may need our full attention.

We as pilots do what many people would consider a daredevil sport. Operating a machine thousands of feet above the ground with nothing but invisible air keeping us from our doom. When the time comes to meet our medical examiner for our medical renewal, we all have some trepidation. I usually try to see my regular doctor before meeting with the FAA designated medical examiner, (AME) just to see if there is anything to worry about. I have generally been pretty healthy over the years, but one bad reading from the AME and I cannot fly. Once the exam starts the die are cast. You can discontinue once something is found, and come back another day for a try. All this has a tendency to raise blood pressure, which is another trigger point with the FAA. Too high no fly. My BP is generally pretty normal except when at the AME. I have pilot frined who have issues with their hearts or diabetes or cancer. These guys really have it tough. They can get a medical but not without extra tests and waiting for month for an answer from the FAA in Oaklahoma City, sometimes just to get a letter requesting more information. Many of these people you would never suspect that they have an issue.

I have a commercial medical which means that I go through this process annually. I always feel better after I leave the doctors office. (so far). I can fly for another year, unless something bad like cancer gets me in the mean time.

There is one other option. In the past few years the FAA has created a Sport pilot certificate. This one only requires a drivers licence and self medical certification. It also limits the kinds of airplanes that you can fly to the smaller, slower, and simpler breeds. Pilots that have higher certificate ratings like private, commercial, or ATP can fly as sport pilots in sport qualified planes as long as they did not fail their last medical and they are generally in acceptable health. A bit of a catch 22.

The only other option is to fly gliders or ballons. These craft do not require a medical to operate. This is my backup plan should all else fail.

No comments:

Post a Comment