By Charlton Stanley, weekend writer
The Federal Aviation Administration issues medical certificates for pilots. There are three levels of medical certificates. Class I, Class II and Class III. The most stringent is the Class I. That is an extremely rigorous medical standard, and must be renewed every six months. This level of certification is for Air Transport Pilots who haul airliners full of passengers. The Class II is for all other commercial pilots. Not as stringent as Class I, but still quite high standards. The Class III medical is for private pilots, and is good for two years. The Class III medical examination is still a strict examination. One of the requirements is to fill out a list of EVERY doctor’s visit not already reported. That means every visit to your family doctor for anything from a runny nose or worse. Do as I did a couple of weeks ago. Gashed my thumb on a piece of glass, and went to the emergency room for some stitches. Required to report that? Oh, yes indeed!
That application form is submitted to the FAA “Under Penalty of Perjury,” so errors of both commission and omission can and do result in draconian penalties. One thing that sets off alarms at the FAA is a visit to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Many veterans have not sought treatment for combat related stress problems for fear of losing their license. I know a number of former Vietnam and Desert Storm combat pilots whom I suspect suffer from untreated PTSD in silence because they know if they see a VA psychologist or psychiatrist, a PTSD diagnosis is a license killer. Yet, some of these pilots have been flying safely since the 1960s.
The requirements for passing a Third Class medical are the least strict, but are nevertheless stringent, especially if the pilot reports having sought mental health counseling.
Several years ago, in 2004, the FAA created a new class of pilot called Sport Pilot. Sport Pilots and are not required to have a Third Class medical certificate. A current and valid driver’s license will suffice. A Sport Pilot’s license is required to fly a light sport aircraft (LSA), but doesn’t need a medical certificate. A state issued driver’s license is sufficient. A Sport Pilot may not fly aircraft exceedomg the limits set by the LSA rule.