Real Answers from Real Pilots

Losing Medical

I understand that losing a first class medical in the airlines is a big deal, but what really happens if a pilot does lose one? Does he/she just flat out lose their job? Or is there time to heal/get better before the airline let’s someone go? You can try to eat right and exercise all you want but some things are just inevitable. It would really suck if you lost your job when you weren’t really in good hands to retire. Thanks

Most airlines offer long term disability that will pay a certain amount of your pay until the retirement age of 65. If you are able to come back before then, you are expected to return.

Garrett,

Yes losing your medical is a VERY big deal and probably most pilots greatest fear. As Chris said most airlines offer LTD (as does the union) but it isn’t cheap. Hopefully it’s something you can recover from but if you don’t you’re done. Which is why we often talk about having a Plan B. As you said despite all your best efforts bad things can and unfortunately do happen.

Adam

Ok thanks. Would you say that most pilots have LTD? And if so, how expensive are we talking? Is it a crazy percentage of your income?

Adam,

Could the airlines make Plan B teaching Risk Management classes or other non-flying jobs?

Garrett,

The plans vary and there are also Loss of License insurance should you lose you license for other reasons. Unfortunately I foolishly never took advantage of the policies when I was younger and they were inexpensive and now that I’m older and they’re really expensive I gamble without it. I strongly recommend you look into it early in your career.

Adam

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Ryan,

Sure. Which is a good reason to get involved with the Training Dept while you’re an active pilot. Most airlines want individuals who enjoy and have some talent instructing vs some guy who never had any interest until he lost his medical and is now desperate for a job.

Adam

Adam,

Thanks for your insight. I’ve always been kind of a financial worry wart so this kinda stuff is something I need to be sure of before deciding to make a career change. Thanks

Ryan,

Actually, at United there is zero incentive to work for the company when you are on LTD as they will offset your LTD payment by any money you make from the company, i.e. no double dipping. Fortunately, the airline cannot force us into any other job other than flying either, we were hired to be pilots, we do not fill lesser roles in the company just because of medical conditions.

Chris