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Aeromedical Forum: January 2016

Legal aspect of Medical Certification II

A few months ago I had a chance to listen to a presentation by a staff attorney from the Enforcement Division of the FAA’s Washington office, Amanda Bruchs. She talked quite a bit about the issues of falsification of the application for medical certification that most of us fill out periodically. I’m talking about FAA Form 8500-8, that miracle of fine print and little boxes into which you pour your life history.

Indeed, down in the lower left hand corner of page two we are informed that “Whosoever…knowingly and willingly falsifies, conceals of covers up by trick, scheme, or device a material fact or who makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements … may be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both.” Yikes! Did I have that tonsillectomy at age 5 or 6?

Of course I see all kinds of omissions and misstatements on the 8500-8’s that come in to our shop. Most of them are honest mistakes, such as forgetting that tonsillectomy you had as a child, or not mentioning the multivitamin you pop in the morning. We try to catch and correct them, but in all honesty I don’t think anyone is going to get too upset if some slip through.

However there are a few things that will push the FAA’s hot button. Moving down the form, the first is item 17a-“Do you Currently Use any Medications?” They really and truly want to know everything you are shoving in your mouth, shooting in your arms, puffing into your lungs or nose, sticking in your eyes, ears or “where the sun don’t shine.” And just because its non-prescription doesn’t mean it’s not a medicine! Tons of over-the-counter medications contain drugs that can cause drowsiness, confusion, blurring of vision, impaired perception. Just what you need when you’re hand-flying an ILS!

Moving on to Item 18 – “Medical History” there are a number of ways to get cross-wise with the FAA. Most of the questions are pretty straight forward “yes or no” items. Keep in mind though that they want to know “Have you ever in your life been diagnosed with, had, or do you presently have any of the following?” So if you had a heart attack, went through coronary artery bypass grafting and been assured that you’re “cured”, don’t for a minute think that the FAA doesn’t need to hear about it.

Concealing a significant medical problem could get you into some pretty hot water, especially if things go wrong in the cockpit. You may have heard the story of the commuter pilot flying a Twin Cessna from Martha’s Vineyard to Hyannis a few years back. He lost consciousness in mid-flight much to the consternation of his passengers. Fortunately one of them was a student pilot. She managed a wheels-up landing into a snowbank, from which all hands miraculously survived. Turns out the guy had been concealing the fact he was an insulin-dependent diabetic who had had a couple of previous low-blood sugar reactions while flying. He was indicted by the FAA, pleaded guilty and was handed 16 months in Club Fed and 2 years supervised parole. Oh, and he lost his medical and pilot certificates. Fortunately horror stories like this are few, but they do illustrate how things can rapidly get out of hand if you’re trying to fly with concealed but significant illness.

Item 18v – “Convictions and/or Administrative Action History” can be tricky. They want to know if you ever had any DWI’s. Likewise you should report any other actions against your driving privileges. Read the fine print carefully. Don’t try to fudge this one because they do check it against a national data base. If you do get a new DUI/DWI or any alcohol/drug related actions against you driving privileges you can’t wait until your next medical to clue in the FAA. You must report it to FAA Security within 60 days of the action.

Finally, Item 19- “Visits to Health Professionals Within the Last 3 Years”. Again, it’s pretty self-explanatory. They do tell you that “routine dental, eye, and FAA-periodic medical examinations … may be excluded.” Also, it doesn’t hurt to bring records of your recent medical visits, especially if you’re taking any medications. It will help your AME to resolve any questions they might have without having to call over to your clinic.

So the next time you fire up the PC to fill out your medical form, pay attention to detail, try to remember everything and if you have any doubts ask you AME.

Fly wisely. See you next month!

As always, comments, questions and suggestions are welcome:


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