Medical Issues

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Medical Certification Issues For International Flights

July 24, 2008

Do I need a First Class Medical to Fly Internationally?

Many States have different requirements from those of the U.S. when it comes to medical certificates. According to ICAO Annex 1 – Personnel Licensing, holders of commercial pilot licenses and airline transport licenses are required to hold a class 1 medical. These requirements are not based on the type of operation, private or commercial, but on the certificate held by the pilot making the flight. Although the FAA allows commercial pilots to hold second class medicals, the ICAO naming structure for the various classes of medicals does not fit with that of the U.S. Under the ICAO definition, a second class medical applies only to holders of private pilot licenses.

As a result, when conducting international flights, it is recommended that pilots (including those serving as Second-In-Command) carry a current FAA first class medical certificate. For pilots under age 40 at the time of examination, FAA first class medical certificates expire at the end of the last day of the 12th month following the examination date shown on the certificate. For pilots over age 40 at the time of examination, FAA first class medical certificates expire at the end of the last day of the 6th month following examination. For pilots over 40, inspectors may well conclude that the FAA first class medical is invalid if the date of the medical examination was more than six months prior to the date when the ramp inspection is made. This means, that any time after 6 months (to the day), an FAA first class Medical Certificate may be interpreted as no longer meeting ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS).

While the standards for FAA first and second class medicals are similar to those of an ICAO first class medical assessment, the differing classification structure and standards have historically caused confusion. In most States, outside of the U.S. and Canada, it is easier to simply carry a valid first class medical rather than trying to explain to a foreign inspector that a FAA second class medical equals an ICAO class 1 medical. Should your argument be less than convincing you may have to either get a current first class from an FAA Certified AME or bring in a pilot with current first class medical to remove your aircraft.

Excerpts from ICAO Annex 1- Personnel Licensing

“1.2.5.2 Except as provided in 1.2.5.2.1, 1.2.5.2.2, 1.2.5.2.3, 1.2.5.2.4 and 1.2.5.2.5, a Medical Assessment issued in accordance with 1.2.4.5 and 1.2.4.6 shall be valid from the date of the medical examination for a period not greater than:

60 months for the private pilot licence — aeroplane;
12 months for the commercial pilot licence — aeroplane;
12 months for the airline transport pilot licence — aeroplane;”

It also indicates the following in a note:

“Note 2 — When calculated in accordance with 1.2.5.2 and its sub-paragraphs, the period of validity will, for the last month counted, include the day that has the same calendar number as the date of the medical examination or, if that month has no day with that number, the last day of that month.”

In ICAO Annex 1, 2.4.1.6, the medical requirement for a commercial pilot is prescribed. It states:

“2.4.1.6 Medical fitness

The applicant shall hold a current Class 1 Medical Assessment.”

In ICAO Annex 1, 2.5.1.6, the medical requirement for an airline transport pilot is prescribed. It states:

“2.5.1.6 Medical fitness

The applicant shall hold a current Class 1 Medical Assessment.”

“6.1.1 Classes of Medical Assessment

Three classes of Medical Assessment shall be established as follows:

a) Class 1 Medical Assessment; applies to applicants for, and holders of:
— commercial pilot licences — aeroplane and helicopter
— airline transport pilot licences — aeroplane and helicopter
— flight navigator licences
— flight engineer licences

b) Class 2 Medical Assessment; applies to applicants for, and holders of:
— private pilot licences — aeroplane and helicopter
— glider pilot licences
— free balloon pilot licences

c) Class 3 Medical Assessment; applies to applicants for, and holders of:
— air traffic controller licences.”