COVID-19 is a serious thing. A very serious thing. For those of us who work in hospitals or with vulnerable patients every work day is one in which we are extremely careful about our interactions to avoid infecting others. Most of society doesn't work in hospitals so they don't see this. But it's real.
Because of this and the need to keep working pilots flying while reducing risk to my hospitalized patients, I am limiting my practice to Class II and Class III airman for the most part and those Class III airmen who are currently working through special issuance. Once we have a handle on COVID-19 transmission then I can expand again.
For those of you who want Class III medicals, I am sorry to have such limited availability but I don't have a choice if I am to protect the hospital patients to the greatest degree that I can while also helping working pilots to earn a living. To help you here is a list of AME's in Ohio that you might be able to get your medical from: https://flightphysical.com/ame-directory/ohio
You want to fly. Someone you know, probably your flight instructor or a friend who flies, told you that you need a medical to fly. So now what?
Well first of all there are different medical requirements for different types of flying. Not all of them involve a visit to your AME. So it may help to define what those are. It is also important to do so because if you have a medically disqualifying condition you may end up not flying if you don't approach this process thoughtfully.
The "Conventional Medical"
This is the "traditional" medical. The Class 1 , 2 and 3. It requires a visit to the AME and it requires compliance with a very specific set of FAA standards to be issued. If those standards are not met, the medical gets deferred (denials at the AME are discouraged by the FAA) and you may wait many months for a decision. If an FAA medical is deferred or denied, you cannot fly anything other than Part 103 (ultralights) or gliders and balloons, Part 61.
The reason for this has a lot to do with the relative risk of those operations to passengers and people on the ground. The energy delivered by a sailplane occupied by a single incapacitated pilot to bystanders is a lot lower than say a Citation 501 flown single pilot.
You have to have one of these medicals Class 1 or Class 2 if you are going to fly passengers for hire. Period full stop.
You have to have a Class III if you want to fly anything above FL180 or if it weighs more than 6000 pounds, flies faster than 250 knots and/or has more than seating for 5 passengers. If your flying involves something less than these standards then you REALLY should consider Basic Med.
It would nice to think that the FAA decided on its own to change the medical standards to fix the mess created by the Sport Pilot rules (see below) but they didn't. The standards changes because the AOPA and EAA (send in your dues!) https://www.aopa.org/membership https://www.eaa.org/eaa/eaa-membership?gclid=Cj0KCQjw_r3nBRDxARIsAJljleGNAOoMRKlt6i3X0vAnP2ssWxiU2_VvqpS9QtQ92_L7b1He7sT-CfcaAgmAEALw_wcB
Basically you had a situation in which 15,000 Cessna 150s were taken out by Sport Pilot legislation from contention as good flying machines for folks who wanted to fly under the medical requirements of a driver's license. There are a lot of reasons for this that were practical and political but they created problems.
So for an aging population of pilots (with medical issues) who want to fly their Cessna 172 to Port Clinton on a Saturday for a hamburger you create Basic Med. And frankly, I was skeptical that we would see higher rates of accidents and problems with pilots flying who have not seen an AME, and guess what? The rates early on do seem to be higher... ...but not significantly.
You got a Cessna 206? Fly Basic Med. You have a SubSonex light jet you built and you will stay below 250 KTs and FL 180, fly Basic Med. You have a multi-engine seaplane that comes in at less than 6,000 pounds, fly Basic Med.
Point is that if you and your private physician feel that you are medically safe to fly (aside from a few conditions https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/ ) and you have the proper ratings, you can go fly Basic Med and avoid the AME provided, provided, provided that you have had an unrestricted medical done after July 14, 2006.
And therein lies the rub. Let's say that you worked your whole life and now in your 50s you decide that you want a Cessna 172 (weighs more than a light sport aircraft) and fly it under Basic Med. YOU MUST have passed an FAA medical on or after July 15, 2006. If your last medical was done June 30, 2006, you cannot fly Basic Med unless you pass another one.
If you have experienced one of the specifically disqualifying conditions https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2014/january/09/fifteen-medical-disqualifications you may have a hard time getting that FAA medical. And if you get denied, you cannot even fly under Sport Pilot. Seriously. I'll get into that in a minute.
So it is really important that if you decide to fly under Basic Med and you need to get your FAA medical to qualify for that option that you are very honest with the AME BEFORE you start your exam. Once an FAA exam is started, it has to be submitted, even if incomplete.
Again, if you decide that your flying will not be for hire and doesn't involve anything that exceeds the limitations of Basic Med and your last FAA exam was after July 14, 2006, go get your Basic Med education, get your physician medical exam updated and if your private physician signs you off, go fly. Review this document and get started https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/basic_med/media/basicmed_faq.pdf
Sport Pilot was the great compromise before Basic Med.
Before Sport Pilot was this kludgy thing called a Sport Pilot which was supposed to make the 50NM restriction of the Recreational Pilot a thing of the past. Sport Pilots just need a valid State Driver's license to fly. No FAA medical. No AME visits. No initial medical after a certain date, like Basic Med.
Sport Pilot means that you never have to get a medical but it comes with some restrictions:
You can only fly with one passenger and only VFR
You can't fly for hire or compensation
You can't fly higher than 10,000' MSL or 2,000' AGL, whichever is higher.
No night flying
Your airplane cannot weight more than 1,320 pounds on takeoff if it is a land airplane (you get another 110 pounds for floats)
Your airplane can have a maximum VNE of 120 knots
Your airplane can have a maximum stalling speed of 45 knots
Single engine, fixed gear, non-pressurized, fixed pitch propeller with a few exceptions for float planes and gliders.
In short, unless you can find a Cub or Champ or a very few Ercoupes, you are spending a boatload of money on an LSA that doesn't do much except get you to a hamburger on very favorable days. No 172s, no Cherokees, no 150s, No no no no no...
Plus, and here is the kicker, if you have ever had a denial of an FAA medical, it has to be cleared before you can fly Sport Pilot.
The Bottom Line
So what is the bottom line?
If you have a history of say ADHD and you just want to putter around in a Champ or perhaps build a nice LSA, then Sport Pilot is probably the best option. ADHD can be wavered but it is really hard and expensive to do so.
If you can pass an initial FAA medical but have no desire to fly anything over 6,000 pounds or above FL 180 or for hire, then Basic Med is the best option.
If you want to do anything else, then you are looking at one of the traditional 3 classes of FAA medicals and you need to find an AME to help you.
If you go for the latter option, be VERY honest about all medical issues BEFORE you apply for your medical. It can save you a lot of hassles in the long run.
Shoot me a text at 740-350-5266 and make sure you include your name and email. I will get back to you.