Real Answers from Real Pilots

1st Class Medical Expiration

Hello,
I am planning on starting ATP flight school in June. I want to get my 1st class medical out of the way, but I just want to confirm that I understand FAR medical duration correctly. According 61.23, it states that the “1st class medical expires after the 12th month after the month of the examination.” Would you recommend me getting it now and then renewing it next January, or would it be better for me to wait a month or so before June to get it? I have a third class medical and had no problems with the examination, so would I have any problems in receiving my 1st class medical?

Hi Lynn,
I just got my first class done today. I’m over 40 so my certificate will only be good for six months. If you’re under 40 my doctor said the certificate is good for 12 months. As far as the exam itself, what they look for is urine test not for drugs but things like diabetes and other disease. Physical exam listening to your heart and an EKG if you’re over 40. There are also several eye exams such as vision from a distance, color blindness, eye coordination to make sure both of your eyes work together. I think this was it. It’s not a big deal test. I hope it helps.

Yogev

Lynn,

The First is more extensive than the Third which is why ATP requires one. Provided you’re under 40 the First will revert to a Second after 12 mos and be good for another 12 mos. Personally unless you have any concerns or doubts regarding your health I’d wait and get it just prior to starting the program. That way you don’t even have to give it a thought for 2yrs.

Adam

Lynn,

We cannot tell you if you will be eligible for a first class medical, only an FAA doctor can do that.

A first class medical is valid for six months if you are over age 40, twelve months if you are under age 40. I would wait a few months before getting one.

Chris

I’d just add/clarify that an EKG is required for the first 1st class exam after age 35 as well (then annually after 40). I’m setting mine up now and am 35 so unfortunately I have to get the EKG.

Good luck on your exam.

Robert,

The EKG is really not a big deal at all. It only takes a few minutes and does not add too much to the price. Plus, if you have any issues, it is good to know ASAP anyways.

Chris

Totally agree, Chris–in the long run I’d much rather discover any issues up front (both for the sake of my health and to avoid uprooting my family/life in vain for a career change that ends before it starts).

The cost difference was really my only annoyance since everything is so expensive in Hong Kong, where I currently live. According the the database there are 6 AMEs in HK and based on the calls I’ve made, the cheapest I can get the exam is around US$300 with the EKG. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but the potential career change and income loss after this year has me (happily) in penny pinching mode!

Wow, that is expensive, but it will be well worth it for the peace of mind. That being said, I wouldn’t get the medical done too early, just wait until you start the application process.

If all goes according to plan then I’d start ATP a year from now, but I
feel the need to get the 1st class medical now as a threshold matter
because there are several steps I’d need to get the ball rolling on soon to
make that timeline, including relocating my family back to the U.S. with my
current employer.

One thought though–I know ATP requires the 1st class medical, but as long
as the 1st class is still good on my ATP start date would I even need to
renew it before (hopefully) applying to/starting with a regional down the
line? Could I rely on the downgraded tail period of the certificate
through the balance of training and instructing?

Thanks.

Robert,

You seem really worried about this medical certificate, as an airline pilot, you will need to come to terms with seeing the doctor every six or twelve months like clockwork, it is just a fact of life. Almost all airlines require a first class medical and do not allow it to lapse to a second.

Chris

Thanks. Not worried–if I have to renew the certificate so be it, and I
understand that it couldn’t lapse while at an airline. Just curious if it
is required the entire time training and instructing with ATP.

Robert,

I misunderstood your question. ATP only requires you to obtain a first class medical, not maintain one while in the program. You should be fine with the reduced privileges of a second or third class for all of your checkrides. Of course, you will need to have a second class while you are instructing as that is acting as a commercial pilot.

Chris

Got it–thanks for the clarification. That makes sense.

On a separate but related note that I found interesting, I was talking to a pilot friend recently who works for a parcel delivery service in mainland China. Obviously the pilot shortage is very acute in China as the aviation industry expands rapidly here, but he said that the biggest reason there aren’t more pilots coming over from the US is the stricter medical requirements under PRC regulations. As highly as the industry is regulated in the US, it is refreshing sometimes and a nice reminder to see the practical contrast with how inflexible other regimes can be overseas.

(As to whether the medical is the biggest reason there aren’t more US pilots in China, I take that with a grain of salt given his description of some other cultural aspects of his work environment with his company)

Anyway, thanks again.

Robert,

I have a number of friends flying in China and I can tell you the medical standards aren’t the issue. While the pay is excellent you definitely earn it with ridiculously long hours. There’s obviously no unions so there are no protections. Bust a checkride, bust a reg or argue with management and your pay gets docked or you’re out. If they don’t give you your required rest, min days off or violate the contract in anyway and there’s no one to complain to.

That said again the pay is good and it could be a great adventure for the right person. Problem is not enough people think so. Oh and did I mention the smog?

Adam

Yeah, the medical standard issue didn’t ring true to me, even if it might be one of many factors. On one hand, though, it is reassuring to see strict regulation and training in the Chinese aviation industry given how it was in the early 80s when my family first moved to China (we were on an overbooked flight where they put folding chairs in the aisle, cause why not?). But like you said, there are systemic and cultural elements that don’t easily jive with most Western sensibilities.

I grew up in Beijing so I know all about the smog. The scary thing is it’s gotten considerably better in the last 5 years or so, and it’s still brutal. My wife won’t let us live there even if I wanted to. I guess flying inter-island now you don’t need to worry about that!

Robert,

Interesting insights, thanks :slight_smile: