Medically Grounded (sort of)

Well…I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but I’m grounded.

Due to some scheduling difficulties with the AME closest to me, I wasn’t able to get an appointment for my medical certificate renewal until June 1oth.

My medical expired May 31, so I am now officially grounded. I’d hoped to get a flight in on the 30th, but thanks to the president and his absurdly outsized TFR, I was unable to fly. Such is life.

Reflecting on medical certificates:

Sometimes the whole process seems sort of silly, really. How many plane crashes have stemmed from medical factors that would have been caught in a standard FAA medical? Not many. Seems like most of the medically caused crashes involve pilots chugging a bottle of NyQuil and then going flying. The root cause of that is plain stupidity, which the FAA doesn’t directly test for.

Things that will actually kill you

The things that could actually incapacitate me to a point of being unable to control the airplane in flight – aortic or brain aneurysm, stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolus, hypoxemia – won’t be seen on the standard medical exam. And as I’ve mentioned, medical problems don’t seem to be a huge issue for most pilots.

More than medical issues, I think two of the biggest pilot killers out there are complacency and that dangerous mix of arrogance and inexperience that some young pilots have. Perhaps a course on human factors and some ‘get-right’ time in the simulator would be a better use of time and money than a medical exam for some pilots.

Get your annual anyway

Having said all that, a health screening every few years for pilots does make sense. Basic vision and hearing tests are important for obvious reasons. I don’t recall if they test for reaction time, but they really should if they don’t. Health maintenance problems like high blood pressure and abnormal EKGs deserve closer scrutiny. Just as we make sure our plane is fit in it’s annual inspection we should have ourselves inspected too.

Regardless of my personal feelings on medical exams, I am bound by the letter of the law.   I will not fly without a medical. My appointment on June 10th can’t get here fast enough, and once I have my certificate in hand, I’m revved up and ready to go. The FBO just got a new Piper Arrow that I’m dying to learn to fly!

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2 thoughts on “Medically Grounded (sort of)

  1. Sorry man! Wish I could just sign you off here! Yeah, the medical is an economic racket. Once rules get in place they are very hard to change. Really, any family doc should be able to apply your regular check-up as a valid medical.

    A friend of mine, Brandon who flies professionally out of Denver and just got his ATP told me he would give you some sage advice. I asked him to do that for you after I read your post on career 🙂

    • Dr. J:

      Thanks for getting your friend to offer some sage advice! I agree that a standard physical should count as an FAA medical, but as you said, once these things get in place they never ever leave…so it goes!

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