Navigating FAA Medicals on Your Path to Becoming a Professional Pilot

Embarking on the journey to become a pilot is an exhilarating endeavor that involves not only mastering the art of flying but also navigating aviation regulations. One pivotal step in this process is obtaining your FAA Medical Certificate. This certificate, issued by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), attests not only to your fitness for flight but also paves the way for your ascent into the skies. Here's an explanation of FAA medicals and the crucial information you need to initiate your career as a professional pilot.


The Role of Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs)

An Aviation Medical Examiner, or AME, holds the key to your journey as a pilot by conducting comprehensive medical examinations. Designated by the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Aerospace Medicine, AMEs ensure that you meet the physical and mental health standards required for safely piloting an aircraft.

The Imperative of the Medical Certificate

Obtaining an FAA Medical Certificate is a crucial step in the process of becoming a pilot, holding significant importance for ensuring the safety of aviation operations. This certificate signifies more than just a requirement; it stands as a testament to your physical and mental fitness, signifying your freedom from medical conditions and medications that might compromise flight safety.

Before taking control of an aircraft and embarking on flights, aspiring pilots must secure an Airman Medical Certificate. This certificate formally validates your compliance with the medical standards set by the aviation authority, in this case, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States. The FAA acknowledges that certain medical conditions or medications could hinder an individual's ability to safely operate an aircraft. Thus, by issuing medical certificates, the FAA aims to ensure that only individuals who are physically and mentally fit to fly are permitted to do so.

It is of utmost importance to recognize that an aviation medical certificate is essential for soloing an airplane. This requirement emphasizes the vital role of medical certification in not only safeguarding your well-being but also prioritizing the safety of those who share the skies with you.

The Airman Medical Certificate is indispensable for all pilots, irrespective of whether they are designated as the pilot in command (PIC) or serve as pilot crewmembers. The certificate comes in different classes, each tailored to specific privileges and types of flying. These classes are commonly referred to as First, Second, and Third-Class Medical Certificates.

Medical Class Descriptions

First-Class Medical Certificate: This class is the most stringent and is required for pilots exercising the highest level of responsibility, such as airline transport pilots. These individuals need to undergo comprehensive medical evaluations regularly due to the demanding nature of their roles.

  • Under 40: Valid for 12 months, followed by 3rd class privileges for up to 60 months
  • Over 40: Valid for 6 months, followed by commercial pilot privileges for up to 12 months, then 3rd class privileges for up to 24 months

Second-Class Medical Certificate: Holders of this class are often commercial pilots and individuals involved in certain aviation-related activities. The medical assessment for this class is slightly less rigorous compared to the first class.

  • Under 40: Valid for 12 months, then 3rd class privileges for up to 60 months
  • Over 40: Valid for 12 months, then 3rd class privileges for up to 24 months

Third-Class Medical Certificate: A third-class medical certificate is typically required for individuals pursuing a private pilot license or an instrument rating. This certificate enables pilots to undertake non-commercial aviation activities, such as recreational flying and personal flights without compensation.

  • Under 40: Valid for 60 months
  • Over 40: Valid for 24 months

The medical examination conducted by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) covers a range of factors, including physical health, vision, hearing, medical history, cardiovascular well-being, and mental fitness. By carefully assessing these aspects, AMEs ensure that pilots are capable of safely performing their duties without posing a risk to themselves, passengers, or others in the airspace.

At Hillsboro Aero Academy, we require that incoming students enrolling in our Professional Pilot Program obtain a first-class or a second-class medical prior to your orientation date.

Mastering FAA MedXpress

MedXPress is an electronic platform provided by the FAA that allows individuals in need of FAA Medical Certificates or Student Pilot Medical Certificates to efficiently complete their medical applications online. The information you input into MedXPress will be accessible to your AME, facilitating the examination process. This online tool offers a streamlined approach to completing your medical application (FAA Form 8500-8) and ensures your medical information is readily accessible to your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) during your medical examination.


How to Get Started

Create an Account

  • Access MedXPress at
  • If you're a first-time user, click on "Request Account" and fill out the online form
  • Provide your name and email address (your email address will serve as your account name)
  • Answer three security questions for identity verification purposes
  • You'll receive an email containing your initial password and instructions for completing the account request process

Log In

  • After confirming your account creation, return to the FAA MedXPress login page
  • Log in using your email address and the temporary password provided in the confirmation email
  • You'll be prompted to set a permanent password

Complete the Application Form

  • Upon logging in, you'll see the medical application form
  • Fill out the form, ensuring accuracy and completeness
  • When finished, click "I'm done. Send my application to the FAA" and then click "Submit"
  • MedXPress will assign a confirmation number to your application upon successful submission

Save and Review

  • If you need additional information or need to complete the form later, you can save your progress and return to it
  • Click the "Save Now" button at the bottom of the page to save your entries and log off
  • Your entries will be retained for your next session

Keep Your Confirmation Number

  • After submitting your application, you'll receive a confirmation number
  • This number is essential for your AME to review your medical information
  • Bring the confirmation number to your medical examination, as your AME will need it to access your application

Once your AME imports your application using the confirmation number, it becomes a permanent record in the FAA's medical certification system.

Schedule Your Examination

The FAA offers an online search tool on their website to help individuals locate Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) based on location. By visiting the FAA's AME Locator page, users can input their location details and access a list of nearby AMEs. It's essential to specify the appropriate class of FAA Medical Certificate you intend to acquire during your search.

  • You have 60 days from the date of submission to schedule and undergo a physical examination with your AME
  • Failure to complete the examination within 60 days will result in the application being deleted

Navigating Health Concerns and Aspiring Higher

Navigating the intricacies of medical certification, especially when dealing with prior or existing health conditions, can be made easier through two valuable resources. Pilot Medical Solutions, located near Oklahoma City, offers personalized FAA medical support, guided by former FAA physicians in aviation medicine. They collaborate directly with your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and the FAA Standards office, ensuring accurate assistance.

Additionally, AOPA's Pilot Protection Services present another avenue for help. With a team of legal and medical certification experts, AOPA can aid you in obtaining your medical certificate. Their combined resources offer a comprehensive approach to overcoming challenges in the certification process, guiding you toward a successful aviation journey.

To explore these options and address the impact of your medical condition or health concern on certification, reach out to Pilot Medical Solutions or consider tapping into AOPA's Pilot Protection services for additional support. If you have concerns, it’s an opportune moment to begin your research and familiarize yourself with the Airmen Medical Standards & Certification procedures.


A Destination Awaits

Becoming a professional pilot involves not only mastering the skies but also navigating the intricacies of the medical certification process. At Hillsboro Aero Academy, your journey toward becoming a pilot takes off by securing a first or second-class medical certificate. If your aspirations include participation in airline partner programs such as Ascend Pilot Academy or the Horizon Air Pilot Development Program, a first-class medical certificate becomes the necessary requirement that unlocks your full potential prior to your application.

Our dedication to your success is reflected in every step of our admissions process. For those who dream of joining our vibrant aviation community, Hillsboro Aero Academy stands ready to illuminate your path. To discover more about turning your aviation aspirations into reality, reach out to us at or call 503-726-3000. Your career as a professional pilot begins with the appropriate medical certification – the foundation upon which you'll construct your lasting aviation legacy.