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Fitness for Flight

Chapter 8. Medical Facts for Pilots

Section 1. Fitness for Flight

8−1−1. Fitness For Flight

a. Medical Certification.

1. All pilots except those flying gliders and free

air balloons must possess valid medical certificates in

order to exercise the privileges of their airman

certificates. The periodic medical examinations

required for medical certification are conducted by

designated Aviation Medical Examiners, who are

physicians with a special interest in aviation safety

and training in aviation medicine.

2. The standards for medical certification are

contained in 14 CFR Part 67. Pilots who have a

history of certain medical conditions described in

these standards are mandatorily disqualified from

flying. These medical conditions include a

personality disorder manifested by overt acts, a

psychosis, alcoholism, drug dependence, epilepsy,

an unexplained disturbance of consciousness,

myocardial infarction, angina pectoris and diabetes

requiring medication for its control. Other medical

conditions may be temporarily disqualifying, such as

acute infections, anemia, and peptic ulcer. Pilots who

do not meet medical standards may still be qualified

under special issuance provisions or the exemption

process. This may require that either additional

medical information be provided or practical flight

tests be conducted.

3. Student pilots should visit an Aviation

Medical Examiner as soon as possible in their flight

training in order to avoid unnecessary training

expenses should they not meet the medical standards.

For the same reason, the student pilot who plans to

enter commercial aviation should apply for the

highest class of medical certificate that might be

necessary in the pilot’s career.


The CFRs prohibit a pilot who possesses a current

medical certificate from performing crewmember duties

while the pilot has a known medical condition or increase

of a known medical condition that would make the pilot

unable to meet the standards for the medical certificate.

b. Illness.

1. Even a minor illness suffered in day-to-day

living can seriously degrade performance of many

piloting tasks vital to safe flight. Illness can produce

fever and distracting symptoms that can impair

judgment, memory, alertness, and the ability to make

calculations. Although symptoms from an illness

may be under adequate control with a medication, the

medication itself may decrease pilot performance.

2. The safest rule is not to fly while suffering

from any illness. If this rule is considered too

stringent for a particular illness, the pilot should

contact an Aviation Medical Examiner for advice.

c. Medication.

1. Pilot performance can be seriously degraded

by both prescribed and over-the-counter medications,

as well as by the medical conditions for which they

are taken. Many medications, such as tranquilizers,

sedatives, strong pain relievers, and cough-suppres-

sant preparations, have primary effects that may

impair judgment, memory, alertness, coordination,

vision, and the ability to make calculations. Others,

such as antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, muscle

relaxants, and agents to control diarrhea and motion

sickness, have side effects that may impair the same

critical functions. Any medication that depresses the

nervous system, such as a sedative, tranquilizer or

antihistamine, can make a pilot much more

susceptible to hypoxia.

2. The CFRs prohibit pilots from performing

crewmember duties while using any medication that

affects the faculties in any way contrary to safety. The

safest rule is not to fly as a crewmember while taking

any medication, unless approved to do so by the FAA.

d. Alcohol.

1. Extensive research has provided a number of

facts about the hazards of alcohol consumption and

flying. As little as one ounce of liquor, one bottle of

beer or four ounces of wine can impair flying skills,

with the alcohol consumed in these drinks being

detectable in the breath and blood for at least 3 hours.

Even after the body completely destroys a moderate

amount of alcohol, a pilot can still be severely