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Flight physical exam (FAA Air Medical Exam)

To confirm you are in stable physical and mental health, a flight physical is performed by a doctor who is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

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What to expect

The testing done during your flight examination will depend on the type of certificate for which you’re applying. For example, a first class license requires a more extensive exam than a third-class license.

A third-class examination for a person aged 40 or younger typically includes a:

  • basic hearing test 
  • blood pressure check
  • urine test
  • vision test – screening for peripheral vision, nearsightedness, farsightedness and color
  • health history – medications, recent surgeries and mental health status

First class medical exams also require a yearly electrocardiogram (ECG) for people over age 40.

Good to know

At the end of the exam, the medical examiner can:

  • approve your application
  • deny your application
  • defer your application to the FAA for further processing.

If you are denied your application, you may be eligible for a special issuance medical certificate after completing an FAA deferment process. This could happen if you are on a medication that is not acceptable for flight reasons, but a different drug is. Or if you were ill or had a recent medical procedure that impacted your exam, you could be approved after being symptom-free for a certain period of time.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Reviewed by: Mark Valgemae

First published: 1/23/2017
Last reviewed: 1/23/2017