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Chapter 8.  Medical Facts for Pilots 

Section 1.  Fitness for Flight 



1.  Fitness For Flight 

a.  Medical Certification. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 

Fitness for Flight