Real Answers from Real Pilots

Medical Physical and Vocational Security

I am six months away from fully investing in ATP. I have 68 flight hours and a first class medical physical. I have taken three aeronautic college classes. I have been studying fundamentals for three years. My question is in regard to medical. I am 36 years old and have a first class student medical physical. I do not have any corrections of any kind. I do not take any medication. The only thing that I am concerned about is my age. I am 35 years old, I want to fly for 30 years, if I have to get a correction, like wear classes later will I still be entitled to a 30 year vocation. I’m really concerned about medical physicals getting in my way every six months from 40 to 60 years old. Can you shine a little hope on my ardent passion for flight? Is there grace for the pilot as they get older. Are there other flying jobs for pilots with a third class or second class medical physical. I just want to know about the vocational securities and all opportunities to keep me in air for 30 years. I don’t care what I fly, I would fly dung hoe poo to china. I just want to fly. Is there a resource so I can get a really close analysis of everything about medical physicals?


We discussed this over private message a bit already. Older airline pilots need to meet the same medical standards as younger one. There really are not a lot of options for pilots to use a second or third class medical and still get paid to fly.

Your best resource is an FAA Medical Examiner, I recommend that you schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns.



First it’s a First Class Medical (there is no Medical Physical so save a few key strokes). Second there is no “grace” as you get older, in fact after 40 your First Class is only valid for 6mos and you require yearly EKGs. Now vision issues are common as we age but as long as it can be corrected with glass (or contacts) to 20/20 you’re fine. There are of course other commercial flying jobs that don’t require a First Class medical (in fact to be an FO for an airline LEGALLY you’re only required to have a second and while the airlines will allow you to let your First lapse to a second, most require you to be able to obtain the First). Rather than looking for alternate jobs I would encourage you to appreciate the fact that your chosen career is in fact directly tied to your physical (and mental) health AND the majority of health issues pilots wrestle with are weight related. With that in mind take care of it. Diet and exercise are essential. While I’m far from an athlete, I do my best to be responsible as I too want to fly to age 65. You’ll will inevitably fly with pilots who are in very poor health. They party and live on fast food and then get angry when they lose their medicals. Barring any disease or unexpected accident, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to keep you First Class till you retire. That said again if the high point of your overnights is the local pub and you show up at the aircraft every morning with a sack of burritos, well who’s fault is that?


I should point out that United requires all pilots, both Captains and First Officers, to maintain a First Class medical at all times. First Officers are not allowed to let it lapse to a second class.