All students planning to begin flight training at UND are advised to hold a current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate. Aviation medical examiners (AMEs) are designated by the FAA to issue these certificates, following completion of an application and a physical examination. While we have AMEs at UND, they can be found in most U.S. cities and in major cities abroad. For names and addresses of AMEs, visit the FAA website.
There are several reasons for which you could be denied a medical certificate even if you feel you are in good health. These reasons have to do with medical and/or legal problems you have had, and should be evaluated before beginning your education for an aviation-related career. Prior medical issues and the current, or prior, use of certain prescription medications can be either disqualifying, or may require further inquiry by the FAA. Legal problems (arrests and/or convictions) can also create problems, particularly if they relate to alcohol or drug violations. If any of these problems need to be processed to obtain your certificate, delays are common. Therefore, we advise you to obtain an FAA medical certificate several months before coming to UND. You are required to possess a medical certificate to enroll in the flight laboratories, so get your medical certificate early to avoid delays.
A common limitation is a color vision restriction which restricts pilots from flying at night or under a signal gun control. Air traffic controllers may not be cleared medically with any color vision problems. These problems need to be identified to determine if you are eligible for these career fields.
Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) diagnoses are also common, and even if the problems have resolved, the FAA will need to review your medical history. Copies of medical records and evaluations are important for the medical certificate review. We recommend that you obtain copies of all of your records and keep them in a file in case they need to be reviewed.
There are three classes of medical certificates, aptly named first-, second-, and third-class. First-class certificates are required for pilots exercising privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate. Second-class medical certificates are needed for performing other commercial operations, and third-class medical certificates are adequate for private pilot privileges. Since professional pilots will need a minimum of a second-class medical certificate, we recommend you obtain a second-class medical certificate initially to begin your flight training. Although a third-class certificate is adequate for flight training, the visual requirements are not as stringent as the first- and second-class certificates.
If you have significant medical and/or legal problems, you should have copies of medical and/or court records for your examiner. You should be aware that drug and alcohol arrests and/or convictions (yes, paying a fine is a conviction) and administrative actions are considered serious problems by government and the aerospace industry. Failing to report or disclose these matters can also have serious repercussions with the FAA. Medical and behavior standards of professional pilots and air traffic controllers are among the highest in our society. Mistakes, poor judgment, and other "indiscretions of youth" can have lasting consequences related to your career. Prevention (through responsible behavior) is the key.
How do I go about obtaining a medical certificate?
You need to schedule an appointment with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). AMEs are different than regular physicians, as they have been specifically designated by the FAA to conduct FAA medical examinations. AMEs are available throughout the USA and abroad. Contact your local health care facilities to locate AMEs in your area, or check the FAA website. Be certain that you schedule an FAA medical examination, not a routine medical exam. You will spend some time filling out a form that asks you questions about your health history before your physical examination.
What kinds of questions will I have to answer when I apply for a medical certificate?
Be prepared to spend some time filling out a form prior to your physical examination. In addition to standard information such as your name and address, you will be asked to report use of medications, past medical history, and visits to health professionals. You will also be asked to report any alcohol- or drug-related motor vehicle convictions and non-traffic misdemeanors or felonies. If you have been flying, be prepared to answer questions about your total pilot time and pilot time in the last 6 months. You will sign the bottom of the form, making it a legal document saying that all information provided is correct to the best of your knowledge. An instruction sheet is provided with the form to help you fill it out.
I have a medical or legal issue; will this prevent me from getting a medical certificate?
Start the application process early and find an AME who will be willing to work with you through this process. There are some conditions that are disqualifying, and there are some conditions that can be allowed with restrictions after additional testing.
Where can I get more information?
The FAA's website provides information, including other FAQs.
UND Aerospace Anti-Drug Program
While flying at UND, you will be part of our drug and alcohol misuse prevention program. As in the aerospace industry, our goal is to use education and deterrence to maintain a safe training environment. The program is similar to mandatory drug and alcohol testing conducted at air carriers and air traffic control centers. Our program reflects our commitment to the aviation industry's demand for a "no tolerance" environment and our regard for safety standards. Also, if you receive a drug or alcohol violation, you may be suspended from flight training for several months. This can negatively impact your training costs as well as your efforts to graduate on time.
Drug and alcohol testing will be done for several reasons. Tests can be ordered as an initial screening, directed at an individual based on their behavior, speech, odor, or other characteristics, or be done as a result of an accident or incident. All students participating in flight labs are subject to random drug and alcohol testing. Positive tests will not only impact your flight status, but can severely impact your eligibility for a medical certificate. A complete description of the drug and alcohol program at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is available for your review.
Recent changes in some state's laws allow recreational use of marijuana as well as medical marijuana prescriptions. According to the FAA, marijuana use, even with a prescription, is a violation of the medical certificate requirements. According to UND policy, any marijuana use is in violation of the Drug Policy.
Our goal is to educate aviation professionals regarding many aspects of their future careers in a demanding industry. Learning about acceptable behaviors is an important aspect of this process.
Planning is essential with any college endeavor - especially with an aviation major. If you have any questions regarding FAA medical certification, please contact your AME. If you have questions regarding legal matters, please consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about federal aviation regulations.