42 Aviation forWomen;May/June 2015
Am I taking any disqualifying medications or treatments? Do
I feel I can safely perform all required duties?
How do you know whether you have a disqualifying medical condition? Well, there are 15 specifically disqualifying
medical conditions that are listed in FAR Part 67. They are as
follows: angina pectoris (chest pain), cardiac valve replacement, coronary heart disease, heart transplant, myocardial
infarction (heart attack), cardiac pacemaker, diabetes mellitus, loss of consciousness, epilepsy, loss of neurologic function (i.e. stroke), substance abuse, substance dependence,
psychosis, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder.
While these conditions are fairly obvious, there are hundreds more disqualifying medical conditions that are published in The Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners on the
FAA website. Your aviation medical examiner (AME) uses this
guide to stay up-to-date on FAA medical policy. If you have
any questions about whether a medical condition, treatment,
or medication is disqualifying, you should consult your AME.
Additionally, FAR 61.53 obligates a pilot to self-certify before each flight. This rule states that:
A person who holds a current medical certificate issued un-
der Part 67 of this chapter shall not act as pilot in command,
or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember,
while that person:
Knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that
would make the person unable to meet the requirements for
the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation; or
Is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medi-
cal condition that results in the person being unable to meet
the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the
This self-grounding rule covers a pilot in the case that she
does not feel she can safely perform her duties whether it is
illness, medication, substance use, stress, or lack of sleep.
The second question regards which medications are dis-
qualifying to take while flying or controlling. There are a
few resources to help you determine this. First, any sedat-
ing medication, whether prescription or over the counter, is
not allowable to take on duty. If the box or bottle warns “may
cause drowsiness,” or “do not operate machinery,” then it is
a sedating medication. You must wait five times the half life
of the medication (you can Google this) or five times the dos-
ing interval after your last dose before you can return to fly-
ing or controlling. The Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners
noted above has a section on medication as well. My com-
pany, Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS), also has
information on its website: www.AviationMedicine.com/
medication-database/. AOPA also publishes a medication
database on its site, www.AOPA.org. Again, you can always
check with an AME.
The last question may seem straightforward, but you may
be surprised how many airmen are out there flying when they
may not necessarily be safe from a medical perspective. The
barriers to accurately assessing fitness to fly include denial,
rationalization, fear of losing medical certification, or mission
demand. I can assure you that it is very unusual for a medical
condition to cause permanent disqualification. FAA medical
reporting tends to go much smoother if a medical condition is
identified and treated earlier rather than waiting until the condition becomes much more serious, more difficult to treat, and
harder to regain medical certification.
The Aeronautical Information Manual section 8-1-1 is a
good summary of factors involved in assessing fitness to fly.
They recommend a personal preflight checklist to ask yourself before every flight—I’M SAFE. You should ask yourself
if you are impaired by Illness, Medications, Stress, Alcohol,
Fatigue, or Eating/Hydration to decide if you are physically
and mentally safe to fly. This would also apply to other crewmembers or air traffic controllers before going to work.
Fitness for duty means that you go to work in a physical,
mental, and emotional state that will enable you to perform
your work responsibilities in a manner that does not threaten
the safety of oneself, co-workers, or company property. Paying
attention to your health can contribute to the safety of your operations and assure a long life and productive career. ✈
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Dr. Paula Corrigan, WAI 51101, is an aeromedical advisor for
Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, www.AviationMedicine.
com. She is board certified in aerospace medicine, preventive
medicine, and internal medicine.
I often get questions from pilots and air traffic controllers concern- ing how to make the critical decision regarding whether they are
fit to perform safety sensitive duties, such as flying or controlling. Al-
though this can sometimes be a complicated decision, for the most part, it is fairly simple if you
consider three key questions: Have I been diagnosed with a disqualifying medical condition?
am I fIt to fly?