FAA Policy Changes for AMEs Makes a Difference

FAA Policy Changes for AMEs

On April 27, the FAA released a scheduled update to the guidance it provides to AMEs about pilot certification. The FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division (AMCD) published the AME Guide online. Its purpose is to make AMCD’s latest policies regarding FAA medical standards readily available to practicing AMEs.

Pilots who have taken COVID-19 medications

The latest change’s most significant piece of new information involves the FAA’s policy for pilots who have taken COVID-19 medications. Surprising to absolutely no one, pilots are still not allowed to fly with an active COVID-19 infection or while taking medication to treat or control related symptoms [1].

The combination of tixgevimab and cilgavimab, known as Evusheld, used to prevent COVID in those exposed to it, can be taken up to four hours before the flight. Similarly, seven FDA medications used to treat mild COVID cases require only 24 hours before safety-related flight duties. The waiting period following a dose of any COVID-19 vaccine remains 48 hours.

Expanded guidance to AME standards

Other notable changes include expanded guidance to AME standards that apply to pilots include the following. Taking certain eye medications, experiencing premature atrial contractions, or having been diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus.

While this round of changes did not reveal any dramatic shift in FAA policy, these latest revisions continue an encouraging trend that has been underway at AMCD at least since the introduction of its CACI program in 2013. The FAA has been delegating more and more medical certification decision-making to AMEs.

Better efficiency of the medical certification process

Federal Air Surgeon, Dr. Susan Northup, has further prioritized better efficiency of the medical certification process since taking the reins in 2021 [2]. The FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine is also working to make the certification process more transparent to pilots. Moreover, this includes, providing AMEs more room to exercise sound judgment during the exam.

Pilot Minute is a new monthly series of short videos to keep pilots apprised of significant changes to the certification process. At the same time, MedXPress recently added improved functionality that allows pilots to track the progress of their medical certificate application.

All that plainly translates into good news for pilots. Working with a good AME, even those with several significant medical issues can often receive their certificate on the day of their exam. A less obvious consequence is that choosing a good AME has become even more critical than ever.

AMEs are granted more autonomy

Now proficient examiners strike an increasingly stark contrast compared to ones who are less familiar with AMCD’s latest policies. Previously all AMEs had to defer certification decisions to AMCD when confronted with any number of pilot medical conditions. They may not have to, but some do not know the difference. Get your certificate as soon as possible by preparing for your physical the right way and choosing an AME who does. 

FAA Policy Changes for AMEs References:

[1] “Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners.” https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/ (accessed May 09, 2022).

[2] “Federal Air Surgeon’s Medical Bulletin.” https://www.faa.gov/other_visit/aviation_industry/designees_delegations/designee_types/ame/fasmb/ (accessed May 09, 2022).

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