Real Answers from Real Pilots

I signed up to get a first class medical

Im planning on attending a flight school within the next month or two and I just wanted to have one just incase… should I have gone for the 3rd class first? And how long is a first class medical good for?

Tremaine,

You did the right thing by getting the first class medical as that is what the airlines will want to see. A first class is good for twelve months until you reach the age of 40 and thereafter is valid for six months. It will then lapse to a second class medical.

Chris

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Tremaine,

All that’s required for flight training is a Third Class medical. However if your goal is to become a professional it’s always a good idea to go for your First Class just to be certain you have no issues. If you’re under 40 your First Class is good for a year and then reverts to a Second Class and can actually be used as a Third Class for up to 60 mos.

Adam

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Tremaine,

You did the right thing. Although a first class medical is not required at
your level, it is at the airlines. In addition, ATP requires all students
to have a first class. It is better to know that you can pass the first
class medical standards before starting flight training. If you found out
after flight training that you couldn’t pass the first class medical test,
all of your flight training and money would have been a waste.

The privileges of a first class last 12 months if you are under 40.

Tory

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Awesome, my only concern is my vision… its not that bad but I scheduled an eye exam for next week just incase I need corrective lenses. So the Airlines want to see that I was able to obtain a First class card, I’m 37 now…what if I don’t make it to regionals until after 40?

No matter your age, the airlines will want to see a current 1st class
medical. The only difference is that you will be required to renew your
medical every 6 months instead of every 12 months. Stay healthy in other
areas of your life, too I’m told the acceptable tolerances become more
restrictive as soon as you turn 40.

Tory

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I’ve got a 3rd class edical now…what’s really the difference in exam between 3rd and 1st? I know the EKG test and vision requirements are a bit more strict. Anything else?

Brad,

I just did a quick Google search. According to what I read, the tests are
the same. The standards of each test is what is different. I don’t know
what the standards are though. Your best bet is to contact an AME directly.

Tory

Brad, I think the differences may also depend on the AME you use. I went for my 3rd class to begin training for my PPL in 2015, and went for my 1st class a couple weeks ago to begin at ATP soon. Both exams were identical. Same tests, same amount of time, same cost.

The only difference as far as I can tell is how long they are good for, and of course the mandatory EKG after a certain age.

Edited to add: Tory’s verdict seems correct. Perhaps the standards the examiner is looking at are more stringent, but the tests themselves are identical.

I recently got my first class. The exam included eye sight using those normal charts you see everywhere with the letters, then smaller charts to test near-sightedness. They gave me a little booklet with colored numbers on awkward backrounds, and I had to tell them number that was drawn and sometimes the color of the color as well. They, of course, did a hearing test, which is the same test you got as a school-age child. The actual AME then came in and did a quick physical, relatively painless.