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Medical from Hell
Return to whittsflying
If only the Aeromedical Division of the FAA only lived by the basic Hippocratic Oath, "First, do no harm."

The Medical; The FAA and your Medical Examiner; AOPA BREAKS MEDICAL CERTIFICATION MESS; FEDERAL AIR SURGEON AGREES TO SPEED UP MEDICAL PROCESS; PLAN SEEKS TO REDUCE MEDICAL CERTIFICATION DELAYS; MEDICAL APPLICATION MESS CONTINUES; Special Medical Flight Test; Avoiding Aeromedical Problems; SODA; Why the Delay in Medicals?; Migraine; Internet Discussion; Moral Argument; Second Opinion; Medical Discussion; A Third Opinion; Suggestions for the Straight Shooters; On Color Blindness; Color Blind Test; A New disease?; Decoding a Progress-Resistant Bug; ... Unknowns about Your Medical; ...Your FAA Medical and Pilot File; ...Meet the Enemy; ...        

The newest information is at the top:
Soon aviation medical examiners (AMEs) will be permitted to reissue third class medical certificates for pilots with cardiovascular conditions. These conditions are among 15 new ones that will be added to the existing 20. In early 2006, they can take the required medical documentation to their AME and have their medical reissued in the office
The FAA has just approved the use of multi-focus contact lenses, and multi-focus intraocular lenses for pilots. "You can fly with these lenses now, as long as your vision is normal. You just need an FAA eye evaluation form completed by your eye-care specialist, and give that to your AME at the time of your next medical certification exam." The form and more information are available on AOPA Online

After years of prodding and lobbying by AOPA, both in Congress and at the agency itself, the FAA finally appears to have gotten serious about reducing the backlog of medical certificate applications that at times has exceeded 50,000. This should help pilots needing a "special issuance" because of medical conditions that prevent the local aviation medical examiner (AME) from issuing a medical certificate.

 The FAA's Aerospace Medical Certification Division filled several critical positions that have been vacant, ordered mandatory overtime for medical review staff, and, perhaps most significantly, implemented the long-awaited Digital Imaging Workflow System. The system converts paper medical files to an electronic format, allowing the applications to move through the process electronically; paper files no longer have to be physically walked from one desk to the next. See AOPA Online

The Bob Hoover case is very important to aviation medicine. It proves that fairness does prevail but one must persevere and have financial resources. Make sure that you mention in the Bob Hoover case that his medical was NEVER removed by Australia. Also that this started as a flying deficinecy case that was from the FSDO and dumped into medical . AOPA has excellent coverage of the Hoover case. I put Hoover right up there with Howard Hughes, Bevo Howard, and others. FAA Medical should never have taken the case and they screwed themselves in the process. This is the FIRST case that was referred totally and independently to another sourcd i.e. Mayo Clinic. This case can be cited for future legal precedent.

The Medical
If you have never experienced confusion, anxiety and frustration in aviation, just wait until you age a bit and are faced with an AME medical examination. Regardless of your age, status, wealth, experience, or knowledge time will expose you to what could be the career ending experience of an FAA medical.

FAA and FAR flight standards are primarily based upon medicine as practiced in the 1930s. There is considerable pressure on the idea of self-certification as practiced by sailplane pilots and ultralights. The medical deficiency as a factor in aircraft accidents is rare but happens. Usually it is because of a concealed deficiency. The intent of the medical is to disallow a pilot to fly with a condition that could lead to sudden incapacitation or death.

The AME is a specially trained, certificated physician who attends regular FAA programs to maintain his knowledge and understanding of how the regulations apply. The FAA process is convoluted and archaic medically. Perhaps it is even broken.

Fewer that one-percent of aircraft accident are related to a medical problem with the pilot. This means either that the medical certification system is not required or that it is working exceptionally well. The effort of the FAA has been to speed up the process without significant progress, whereas, the effort should be directed toward evaluating the need for its continued existence as one of the most inefficient parts of the FAA.

The FAA and your Medical Examiner
The right way to approach the ME is to consider that he really works for the FAA.  His job is to deny you your medical. Your job is to prevent him from doing his job. If you let that be your guiding principle, you should be OK. In other words, I wouldn't volunteer any information to him which was not required.

Following a two-day mission by AOPA medical certification specialists, hundreds of pilots received FAA notification that their applications for special issuance medical certificates have been approved. The AOPA specialists worked directly with the FAA's Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City to reduce the backlog of long-pending applications, some of which had been "misplaced" for nearly a year. The Oklahoma City mission was mounted in response to more than 550 complaints from AOPA members whose special issuance applications had been in various stages of review for months without resolution. For more information, see the Web site (

The Federal Air Surgeon, Jon Jordan, in a dramatic gesture to reduce the delay in medical certification, has approved a plan which will allow Aviation Medical Examiners (AME) to issue and reissue Special
Issuance medicals after phone call approval from FAA officials. These certificates would be time-limited to 120 days, pending a formal in-house review by the FAA. This is a major step in reducing the backlog in Oklahoma City, which will allow pilots who have relatively simple Special Issuance problems to be approved on the spot in the AME's office.
AVweb 7-31-00

Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Jon Jordan has agreed to consider a plan that could reduce the long delay in receiving special issuance medical certification. During an aviation medical summit meeting last week at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, AOPA renewed its suggestion that aviation medical examiners (AMEs) be given the authority to issue temporary special issuance medical certificates on the spot, rather than forcing pilots to wait up to four months for the FAA to process applications.

As part of a 1997 proposal to FAA Administrator Jane Garvey on reducing medical certification delays, AOPA suggested giving AMEs special issuance authority. The temporary medical (much like the temporary certificate a pilot receives after passing a checkride) would be good for 120 days, pending a formal review by the FAA. Temporary issuances would be limited to third class medicals initially, but could be extended to other classes later.

Software problems at the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division have created a months-long backlog of medical applications. Here's how to avoid the problem. If you report something new to the FAA on your next medical application--be it medication usage, a change in your medical history, or visits to health professionals--have with you at the time of examination a report from the treating physician summarizing the new medical history. Make copies of everything you provide the FAA.  A major part of the Aeromedical's work process is to prolong the application as a guarantee and proof of the importance of what they do.  If you have questions about what to do or how to do it, call the AOPA Pilot Hotline at 800/872-2672, and speak with a medical certification specialist. A five-minute phone conversation may save you from months of unnecessary grounding. Detailed certification procedures are also available in the members-only section of AOPA Online
( or by calling the 24-hour fax-on-demand service, AvFax, at 800/462-8329.

Would you believe that a cottage industry now exists in an enterprise claiming to be capable of accelerating your medical through the Aeromedical Certification Division, for a price. Want to bet that there are former FAA employees making use of their inside information and contacts involved. It's who you know, dummy.  Expect to PAY!!

Special Medical Flight Test,
Chapter 27 of the FAAGeneral Aviation Operations Inspectors Handbook requires the use of the Adobe Acrobat Reader

Check the following link and contact AOPA if you have any questions

Avoiding Aeromedical Problems
By making your regular physician and your AME the same doctor you can simplify the process. Get your annual checkup first and then get your flight physical. This gives the dual personality time to get any tests done before submitting it to the FAA Aeromedical division.

Statement of Demonstrated Ability
Yes, you can get a SODA even without one eye. I lost my right eye (it's
completely gone, I have a prosthetic) in 1990 and have a 2nd class medical
with a SODA for monocular vision for the 2nd class medical.

Why the Delay in Medicals
I talked to AOPA this morning after verifying that my AME had sent all of my paperwork on to FAA. AOPA maintains a weekly interchange with FAA Aeromedical to keep abreast of the situation.

The causes of current delays, according to the specialist I talked to, date back to Oct. 1999 when the FAA first began requiring AMEs to send in medicals via the Internet. While this will eventually make filing medicals a much faster experience, its beginnings involve training of FAA personnel and working out software bugs. The former involved sending half of the available couple-dozen people who handle deferred medicals to training, and then the other half, resulting in about 4 months where they were only half-staffed.

The software problems have apparently been worked out at this point, but have also caused some delays, due to which the backlog has increased. They are also apparently having some staffing issues due to an early retirement package that was made available last year.

So, what does this mean to us in deferment hell? It means that if your medical application was deferred this week, as mine was, you can expect to wait a minimum of 10 weeks before being contacted by the FAA. Until that time it will do no good to call, since your information will not have even begun to be processed. Further, you can expect a 4 to 6 month delay before getting fully certified, longer if you must complete a SODA. They are simply too backlogged and understaffed.

That is the way it is now according to the AOPA, but that is most definitely not what I heard from my AME, who is probably not up to date on the latest info. So, go get that medical early, it looks like it will be a long time before they achieve anything that could be called timely service. Meanwhile, this will give us lots of time to write letters to our congressfolk before election-time...


A short blurb from is:
Migraine headache medication: Individual cases vary greatly. However, after evaluation and FAA review, the agency will permit use of certain prophylactic migraine headache medications. These medications to prevent migraines, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are primarily used for heart conditions and high blood pressure, but may also be effective in vascular (migraine type) headaches. FAA approval requires documentation that the medication is successful in preventing the occurrence of headaches.

Injectable medications (Imitrex and Zomig) and oral agents used to abort a migraine headache (Imitrex, Zomig and caffergot) once it has occurred are not generally allowed for flight duty use. Pilots who have success in eliminating a migraine with these medications may be allowed to carry them in flight for emergency use only in flight, but will not be approved for using them as a primary means of controlling the headaches. Use of these medications automatically grounds a pilot for a minimum of 72 hours following the last dose and resolution of the migraine.

It is possible to obtain a medical certificate if you are not taking any disqualifying medications, the migraines respond to treatment, and they don't occur frequently. The new migraine medications such as Imitrex and Zomig are acceptable to the FAA as long as there are no adverse side effects.

Internet Discussion
James, without knowing how many cases get forwarded to them every year, how can you determine that they are understaffed? Perhaps they are simply horribly inefficient. I had a medical issue that had to go through them and on one call similar to Gene's they told me it was still in review. When I called back five minutes later to tell them that wasn't sufficient information and to get cantankerous they told me that they had been incorrect and that the medical had been issued and was in the mail.

To me, that sounds like a poor information-flow model rather than necessarily being a staffing issue. In any case, before you could make any claims of knowing what the problem is you'd have to have some hard numbers that build the picture of how much work with which the group is faced.

Regardless, I agree with Gene: They could build some tremendous goodwill in the pilot community if there were better response time. At the very least, an easier way to get more in-depth information about where one stands in the review process would be valuable.
Joan, The same way that you, without knowing how many cases get forwarded to them every year or having ever even taken a look in their offices, can assume they have "poor information-flow" I suppose. Except, I have a little deductive reasoning on my side.

First off, how many pilots do you personally know (not including here in the NG)? I personally know a hundred or so. Now, how many do you know that have had their medicals "kicked upstairs"? I know of at least a dozen, with a half-dozen SODA's, not just referrals.

I don't recall the estimate of ACTIVE pilots, that is those that need medicals every so often, but I'm sure it's well over 100,000. Of the pilot's I know, about 15% needed the medicals looked at again. Let's say I'm atypical, a fact my wife won't dispute, and cut that in half to 7%. That makes about 7,000. Let's cut that in half again and call it 3,500. That means they get in 13 or more cases per day.

In my case, they called or wrote at least 5 doctors (that's how many medical information releases I had to approve), the local FSDO, etc. etc. Now you may argue with my numbers, but I bet that's pretty conservative on my part. Add to that the required paper beauracracy of the FAA and no matter how you slice it, that's one heck of a paper blizzard . For four people to handle, at least initially.

Does that mean they can't stand procedural improvement? Of course not, I have yet to be in an office that couldn't be run better, especially a government office. But does that mean they're adequately staffed? No. It does, IMHO, point to understaffing. IME, the agencies that actually produce and are required to produce results for the citizens have been, and are continuing to be, cut and understaffed, while those that provide little if any useful purpose are going merrily along. Case in point, how many top-level positions have been eliminated in YOUR area, as opposed to clerical and people with jobs just like the ones we're talking about? I agree that response time improvement WOULD produce goodwill in the pilot community. Hell, all of us agree on that. But maybe, just maybe, the people doing the actual work are overwhelmed. Looking at the deduced numbers, and having never set foot in the door at aeromedical in OKC, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the PEOPLE that work there. Besides, where's the harm in being polite, friendly, and cooperative?

The commodity that is at stake when pilots and the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division come into contact is time. A bureaucracy has unlimited life and time is always there as tomorrow. The pilot is time limited. He sees a time when he will be unable to fly. I cry as I write this for my time started too late and I know it will end sooner than later. That the government I served in war and peace as a soldier and educator should needlessly deprive me of a goodly portion of that time, hurts to the quick. There has to be another way.

The purpose of the Aeromedical Certification Division MUST be directed to let as many fly as possible as soon as possible. Certificates should be granted and deferrals should only come in the most extreme cases. Has anyone ever considered that letting two medically at risk pilots fly together as a means of substantially reducing the probability of a health related accident?

I see my 85+ year old friend parking daily under the wing of an airplane that was once his. He reads the paper while listening to the arrival and departure of aircraft. He would and could fly but has lost his five year effort to keep his medical. He is living only a half life now. I question that our country is better for its treatment of him. I see myself soon having his half life as well. There must be a better way for our government and our servants to serve us.

Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't do either, administrate. I said this often about my school administrators. I have been advised that in a government bureaucracy the best way to get rid of an incompetent is to promote him into a position where he is does less harm.

Working myself to the extent that I don't need to think of anything is a blessing. I fall asleep the moment I lie down only if I can get tired enough.. Were I in physical pain it would be different, but I'm not. My wife lies beside me with some moaning and sighing because of her hip and leg. My ears hear these sounds but my mind does not. My mind cuts them out because my mind does not want to hear them. Unless I fall instantly to sleep, I am doomed to hours of semi-wakefulness running over and over the circumstances that have placed my medical certificate at risk. The medical examination previous to this last one, I mentioned an elevated PSA and that I had opted to wait and see. I was issued my certificate. This time during the previous six months I had initiated and completed successful cancer treatment. My condition has to go to the Aeromedical Certification Division. Not a very logical progression, in my opinion.

Sleep is my escape into unconsciousness. Sleep is the one thing I look forward to. Occasionally, I must wait for the fog of sleep to drift in over the valley of my anguish. My mind rests, closed to sound--yet I hear. I hear the newsboy drive by and drop the paper. I lie there a few moments and get up to go to the bathroom. Back in bed, I check my watch. 3:30 4:30, or 5:30 makes no difference I will not sleep again tonight. Get up, perhaps shower, dress, go get the paper, read the headlines, fire up the computer, read and answer email, bring up the rec.aviation.student newsgroup and scan the topics. Answer when I can. Even laugh on occasion. My friends offer support and read my postings.

"You will wait!" So I wait. I stare at the newspaper, computer and the wall. I grow older waiting. It is almost as though waiting causes aging. I would will my mind to think of things other than my medical. It does not obey. 'They' have my papers piled above and below many others. They are lost. Again? No, not again, they just don't come up on the computer. I'm tired, emotionally tired, but I dare not rest. I must keep busy so as to avoid thinking. Thinking is a great mistake. No thinking of the past flying, of experiences never to happen or of vistas never seen.

You can survive the waiting only by living each moment as completely as possible, second by second. Only by being fully occupied can the corrosive effects of this governmental waiting process be prevented from destroying you. It is important that you not question the intent of anything required by or referred to by the agents. Challenge nothing. There is an organized, prescribed order of procedure. An agent's evaluation of work efficiency is based upon how well procedures are followed. That you have been helped or placed into the wait mode is merely incidental. The process is the goal, not results.

If you express a need for anything available from a governmental bureaucracy you will go mad, waiting. You learn not to get angry. Anger is pointless against a bureaucracy. Time is a pointless consideration in the overall operation since unspecified performance quotas must provide for a stable work force with predictable work available. There are neither time constraints nor pressure on the work force. What you do not do today will be there tomorrow; what is not done this week, will be there next week. Mediocrity is the preferred standard. Anyone who should perform beyond expectations is under tremendous peer pressure to conform. Making your peers look bad is bad for relationships and morale. As a public school teacher I lived in such a system and left as soon as the opportunity arose.

When the initial shock of organized bureaucratic inertial first strikes the time driven victim (you), these days, the first month makes all later delays almost bearable. There are many bureaucratic subterfuges that are available to the bureaucratic work force. In my experience I have found the most common to be being placed on 'hold'. This can be done for any number of reasons from break-time, transfer to another agent, transfer to a supervisor, not at her desk or I'm off to use a different computer system. Other subterfuges are an offer to phone you back later today, to advise you that a letter is being sent to you, or a request for a fax of information. The delay factor in my case included the loss of medical records. Always keep duplicates, require delivery receipts, get the names of everyone you come in contact with, and accept the fact that they have no emotional involvement in your problem(s). They have no reason to care. You are a number.

The most difficult part of dealing with a bureaucracy is understanding the system and the rules. You must learn that every agent serves as a firewall programmed to keep you from entering the next level of the system. Once your papers advance to the next 'priority level', you will never again have direct contact with a person who has actual possession or sight of your papers.

Those with power are the easiest to deal with. Your problem is making contact and causing movement in your behalf. Bureaucratic power brokers are beholden to the good will of their agents. Even after making direct contact, you are unlikely to see any movement in your case. Movement initiated from above is considered an abuse of the procedures. Doing things out of order is bad form; bad for morale and best avoided at all costs. The agents like order, numbers that tally and adherence to the process. Going over an agent's head is likely to trigger any one or all of the several punishing delays available.

Once you learn the order and process of the system your papers are likely to survive. You must follow the system without deviant thought, without question as to intent or motive. One of the more difficult problems the uninitiated has in dealing with a bureaucracy is finding out what the rules are. There are no rules, only procedures. Some packets of papers are picked at random, perhaps at the end of a hard day, placed in a different pile or drawer. These papers belong to the reviewers, but they may take months to rise into sight again because there is some 'difficulty' that the reviewer would rather not deal with. These faceless, nameless people are protected from any responsibility or accountability for any decision or lack of decision. I have tried, without success to determine just what qualifications are required of a reviewer. They are not medically trained; no educational level specifics are required in their job specifications that I can determine. I must research the tables of organization. I need some help. Wish I could fall asleep.

I am getting used to the idea of not being able to fly again. My initial response was emotional, the response of a man who has something live for. But as I painfully wait week after week, I can see the rational side of what is happening. The system will not even favor me with the merciful release of rejection. I could live far more easily that way instead of the waiting, waiting, waiting. I am time limited. I began this trek through the Aeromedical Certification Division an old man. I am older now. I don't see how I can ever be the person, pilot or instructor I once was. I now have this Demosthenes (The champion of lost causes.) Sword hanging over my head that must have long lasting and unavoidable effects. Since I have no way of knowing if these effects on my life are intended or unintended consequences of bureaucratic bumbling, I can only hope that future research will reveal the why and wherefore.

It is not going to be enough for me to get my certificate. Not after the time they have taken from me. I will not sleep well until I find just what it was that triggered the elongated process to passage into my hands. I would like to probe the innermost thoughts of the people who read my papers and then piled them below others or worse yet never even looked at them before adding them to the bottom of the pile.

I am now sending out a request that anyone, out there who sees this, put me in touch with present, past, or retired employees of the Aeromedical Certification Division. I intend to make as intensive study as I can about the modis operandi(sp), the congressional direction, the organizational tables and just what the individual employee senses he should be doing, perhaps, in contradiction to what he is doing. It's a dirty job. I feel I must do it, regardless. Perhaps, here is the book that everyone says I should write.

September 1903, After over three years of PSA tests less than 1.0 I have come upon another problem.  I outlived the fourth AME that I have used.  My new AME will only issue me ONE-YEAR second class certificates.  I took a flight review in which the young CFI gave me a hug for having flown so well. Another life time first for me. 

Moral Argument
I'm sorry to prove Godwin's law(*) but as an analogy, if a Nazi official asked if you were harboring Jews or Gypsies, would you have felt that "being honest" was "the right thing to do"?

Of course not, and the reason is not simply that their intentions were unreasonable, it's also because a resident doesn't have a consensual, free relationship with the Nazi state. Now, the interesting thing is that any government fits here. You can't choose certification under another authority, because governments rule by force and coercion and give you no choice. Their intentions, while not always evil, assign little priority to fairness, and there is not even an attempt at impartiality or promptness.

The entire issue of medical certification is pretty hard to defend. There is absolutely zero evidence that pilots will fly when about to be incapacitated, or that the medical cert process even prevents it, and even if there was it isn't clear that an extra accident or two is worth the loss of freedom and burden of regulation, with all the usual unfairness that govt regulation always has.

(*) Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

A Second Opinion
As a physician I am a little familiar with problems like this. The records just may not be available at the physicians office but usually someone else has obtained them (another physician in town) or the family has them in storage. If there is still an office to go to go now and get your records. If the office records are gone you can reconstruct most of the data by calling the hospital that the surgery was performed at and speaking to the medical records chief. Tell her/him that you will be coming down within some set time frame and that you need a copy of your records for that surgery. What you really need is the admission h&p, op report, path report, lab work (x-rays reports) and discharge summary. Expect to pay a small fee for this.

Tell them you need it NOW and don't use the "lawyer" word. Some of these records may be on microfilm and can be hard to retrieve so call in advance, get a name and let them know what time you will be there. Usually these people are bombarded with paperwork so a courteous but decisive attitude is necessary. You do have a right to copies of your charts but you may have to pay a fee. Next, go to a general surgeon with your records, let him/her review your chart and do an exam ao,m nd send a report for you. A flight examiner/surgeon will probably be able to generate a report that will be better for you than a non-flight examiner as they know the in's and out's of the faa. I hope this helps you. Anyone with a history of a serious medical problem should have a copy of all of their records. Incidentally, when you bring a copy of your stuff to a surgeon make sure that you keep a duplicate for yourself as the surgeon will probably want to keep the copies in his chart.

Medical Discussion
Opinion #1
Whether you go to a non-AME or not for care is up to you. Just rembember you're probably going to have to disclose the same information to the AME. It might just go the determining qualification for a medical certificate. Hiding it can help you lose it pretty quick, too. I discovered that long ago.

Opinion #2
Not at all. Assume, for example, I have stomach pain. I go to my AME for the medical and mention it to him, he might have to defer since we don't know the cause and for my $75 he's not going to do a bunch of diagnostic tests to figure it out. On the other hand I go to my MD (or DO) and get some tests, get a diagnosis, I might be able to have my medical issued on the spot when I go to the AME because

a) it might end up being something that doesn't require any treatment at all--just indegestion from too many bean burritos, or
b) it will require treatment, but with a note from my physician with the diagnosis and treatment, the AME might be able to issue immediately (depending on the diagnosis).

Even if it can't be issued on the spot, having the documentation ready for the AME will speed up the process.

Using the medical as a checkup (and therefore risking discovering something on the medical) is, IMHO, stupid. Get yourself checked out and get everything squared away BEFORE the medical. If something is wrong, get it documented and fixed (and give AOPA a call to see what they recomend).

A Third Opinion
Go to Gene Whitt's web page to read the horror stories about medicals. Basic rule of thumb, don't check anything that could cause a problem unless you know they can find it. If it ever comes back to haunt you, "I forgot!" I have asthma and never had it diagnosed until about 10 years ago. Got either 1st or 2nd class medicals for years with the symptoms raging. After I was diagnosed and the symptoms were under control with medication, the problems started. Now, each year the FEDs want a letter from my physician. What a pain in the ass. If you want to fly, NEVER go to a doctor, except for medical time, or at least don't admit to it!

Suggestions for the Straight Shooters:
At the time of the first application for medical certification after starting blood pressure medications, the airman must make available to the aviation medical examiner a current (within last 6 months) cardiovascular evaluation that includes:
a. A report of pertinent personal and family history, including an assessment of risk factors for coronary heart disease, a clinical examination that includes at least 3 blood pressure readings, and a summary of medications, dosages, and presence, absence, or history of side effects;
b. A resting electrocardiogram (within the preceding six months);
c. A laboratory report of fasting plasma glucose, blood lipids, including > total cholesterol, HDL and LDL, triglycerides, and potassium and creatinine levels if on diuretics.

On Color Blindness
Hope this info helps or encourages others. I know I've read lots of posts about color defective vision. In fact, some time ago I got an e-mail from the guy who runs the web site saying that he had seen my "vision" section on one of my personal webpages and asked if he could use the info. I gladly granted him permission, and he has put together a nice aeromedical section at with a great deal of info.

Color Blind Test
Before you do it officially with the FAA, visit a local tower and ask the controller if he will let you try to identify the lights. Then take a handheld and have him flash you a few to practice identifying them. A little practice can make you much more likely to get the requisite 100% when you do it for real.

First Case
Hi everyone!
I'm a colorblind 100+ hour PP, and am interested in picking up my instrument rating. I am nearly positive that my colorblindness is severe enough that I won't be able to get my night-flying restriction waived by passing a signal gun test. I've had my local tower point the gun at our plane and cycle through the colors, and I was able to correctly identify only about 1/2 the colors.
I'm already content with the prospect of being a day-time IFR pilot, but am worried that perhaps that the FAA feels differently. Are there restrictions in regards to getting the instrument rating when one is colorblind?

I don't know about the IFR restrictions, but there are about 15 different color vision tests that are acceptable to the FAA that satisfy the color vision requirement without requiring the light gun test. Unless you are monochromatic (i.e. see in shades of gray), you can probably find one that you can pass. See:|
Next case:
I also have pretty bad color vision. Like you, I initially had difficulty in correctly identifying the light gun colors. In most cases, colorblindness is a deficiency in determining between various shades of colors. I passed the light gun test by determining what aviation green, white and red looked like to me. Red should pretty easy, but I had trouble with the green and white. I spent some quality time at the airport at night, watching the rotating beacon. I learned that, to me, green looks kind of whitish, and white looks sort of yellow. After a little practice, I had no problems telling the colors apart. I took the light gun test and scored 100% the first
Good luck,
Third case
As a colorblind guy myself, I find that I have the same types of green/white confusion that you do. For me, it's just a matter of learning what the color looks like to me. I've noticed that with a little effort, I'm much, much better at determining the color since I've made an attempt to try. In fact, like you, I've not missed a color since I made the effort. Again, like you, green typically looks white-ish to me.

I'm glad to hear that 10% of the male population isn't being excluded. In fact, I would of long ago had my license if I had known earlier that colorblind people can pilot. I just wish I could remember who told me,
when I was a child, that colorblind people can't pilot. I'd love to place a fully loaded, burning, brown paper bag on their front doorstep. ;)

A New disease?

Aeromedical Certification Branch Creates New Disease
FAA Agents who review medical applications in Oklahoma City have stunned the medical leaders of the scientific community with the creation of a new disease.

They recently announced the creation of this most debilitating disease that can be directly attributable to having an Aeromedical Certificate Application sent to one of their divisions. The disease, tentatively named Bureaucratosis, is transmitted initially via the U.S. Postal Service. Victims' attempts to create movement by FedEx, the telephone or fax are firewalled initially in a mail room for at least three weeks as the Bureaucratosis growth process progressively slows. The surest way of mail out of the mail room is to have an agent go get it and carry it by hand. Mandatory qualification for being in the mail room is ability to leave medical papers in the envelopes without anyone noticing. This alone will create a three to six week delay.

Any application or related medical papers that should be forced to an agents attention must be coded into the computers. a major part of the computer problem is not Y2K, rather it is Y1K+98 The Certification Branch has several divisions. Any one of these divisions has a dual set of computers. The old computers are slow and getting relatively slower. Old data is retrieved with the recognition that it is out of date and useless. There is no limit to this kind of data. it can be used to misdirect any applicant's efforts to cause movement. the new computers are usually down or being uploaded with training material. Agents have been undergoing training for a considerable length of time. It is just possible that the combination of the two computer systems have been instrumental in creating a hybrid form of bureaucratosis that has resulted in a vastly improved slowing process. Agents can now claim not to have authorized access in addition to having two computer systems that can be down.

This disease is neither a virus nor a bacterium but is capable of completely incapacitating anyone wishing to be a pilot or who is presently a pilot. Any pilot, who continues flying for long enough and does not quit for a reason other than health, is sure to be come infected. Bureaucratosis has one managing sensory neuron, 125 motor neurons, 75 vice-dendrites and 111 assistant vice-dendrites who's sole purpose in existing is to assure that nothing moves so fast as to create a decrease in the supply of applications on hand. As a group these delay-cell elements are known as 'Feds'. These 312 feds are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of lepton-like terminal ends called agents. For every four agents there is an Agent. At the center of the cell is a large seemingly inert mass called an "Mgr".

Research continues in an attempt to discover how Bureacratosis got there and what it actually does. Since it has no observable biochemical energy, Bureaucratosis is chemically and biologically inert. Unlike any other nerve-related cell, its sole purpose for being is to reduce the frequency of information transmittal from one part to another. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. The very absence of progress is its best identifier. It feeds on its own inertia.

According to the creators, a minute amount of Bureaucratosis has caused one wrong word to take over four days to study. Without Bureaucratosis a second would have been sufficient. In its fully developed form, Bureaucratosis is capable of bringing all movement to a halt. Bureaucratosis also acts as a catalytic cancer by creating a pulp like substance called "paper" in quantities so vast it has yet to be explained. Bureaucratosis has a normal life of about six-months, at which time it does not decay. Instead it reorganizes and introduces a different, even slower form.

Reorganization is a reaction in which the assistant dendrites, vice dendrites and assistant vice dendrites simply exchange places. The slower information goes the more likely this exchange of places is to occur. This reaction was observed for many years but the actual deliberate creation is of recent origin. In fact, a Bureaucratosis sample cell actually INCREASES its ability to slow down after each reorganization, since some of the agents are moved into a higher level of incompetence. This type of change is called entering a region of higher priority. Additional firewalls are installed to prevent any contact with those in a region of higher priority. An agent who becomes a reviewer is capable of being promoted to a Mgr. This allows the creation new and potentially dangerous Divisions to the flying public.
Reorganization does not have any observable effects on the agents.  Small 'a' agents who answer phones are required to limit access to the 'A' class agents. No agent is allowed to give information that might allow contact with a reviewer. Promotions are a function of longevity. Live long enough and you will move up. Superior performance is measured by how well any slow-down escapes outside notice This characteristic of inter-promotion within the Division leads some scientists to speculate that perhaps Bureaucratosis is a spontaneous mutation formed whenever the feds reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as the "critical morass". More office space is required to contain the increased backup. Then the line moves up a notch to make way for more agents.

The most noteworthy characteristic of Bureaucratosis is that anything made of it doesn't work or move. Its existence depends on conservation of energy, the less an Fed cell does, the more certain the future. None of these cells have been known to implode from their own inertia and disappear into a black hole. Instead, an additional infusion of money is sought because the backlog of applications keeps increasing making ever more critical the need for more Fed agents to keep things from moving. Capital 'a' Agents will on occasion hand carry applications and their related papers. There is some reason to believe that such activity reduces any chance of advancement but it happens. When it happens the aviation community rejoices with congratulatory email around the country. Such an event occurred just the other day.

Bureaucratosis is a disease that every pilot has potentially in his or her future. Any pilot who does not get out of flying for another reason will eventually be exposed via an application for a medical certificate. What can happen as a result is very problematic. The experiences of others would indicate that months or years will be extracted from your life. You can be deprived of your livelihood without warning or notice. There is even superficial evidence of vindictive infections being extended to those who draw attention to Bureaucratosis. Bob Hoover is a classic

The creators of Bureaucratosis are quite defensive in justifying the guidelines and processes which makes the very survival of Bureaucratosis possible. Bureaucratosis protects the creators from any accountability, responsibility for what happens and even from what does not happen. This disease is a win-win product for its creators. The aviation community has every reason to suspect that new varieties are soon to enter production. Waiting is the name of the game. Waiting never takes a holiday nor a vacation.

Just the other day, October 4, 1003, I happened upon a new variation of Bureaucratosis.  I called the local Flight Standards office regarding an appointment for submission of my CFI renewal papers.  I was given a nine-o'clock appointment but had to ask for a name.  Well, I showed up at the Oakland airport office that had existed  for over 50 years.  Closed!  No indication of where they had moved or if they had moved. and no hint from my phone call other than that the phone number had been changed

Well, in the process of finding how well they had hidden themselves, I asked no fewer than eight people.  .Employees of the Oakland Port Authority had no knowledge at all.  Inside local offices people could only point to the far end of the airport.  No phone listing, address or Suite number.  I spent thirty minutes driving and stopping to ask.  (No cell phone)  Finally got a building number from a FedX driver.but did not get street name just a point.  Made three more stops seeking directions without success.  

Stopped at a huge office building and had to walk two blocks to find an entrance.  Went into an insurance office and the lady said that there had been a large move in on the second floor in the past month but she didn't know who.  Again my directions were a point-out.  Went upstairs and opened a door with no lettering and sign.  Vola!, a bullet proof cage separated me from a large room with no one in view.  Must be the right place.  

I caught the eye of a lady passing by in the rear and she took my name, looked in a book and told me to sit down and wait.  I do not sit down well.  There was a brochure rack on a small table. Twelve spaces with names such as landings. etc.  Only two had anything in them but I took two of each for my primary students.  Then I picked up a non official six-page California Edition of "The Aviator".  A gold mine of information   Issues available on the web at:

As I was reading at the fortress window slot, I was asked for my identification and papers.  After a 20 minute wait I was given my papers back and asked to confirm the information on  my temporary CFI renewal.  I asked about Denny Pollard, the author of The Aviator  but he was 'out in the field'.  When I got home I called and left a message for Denny.  When he returned my call I found that he was the same FAA inspector that several years ago had given me the excellent 'How To'  annual inspection check sheet I had put on my web site.  Why does the FAA hide the Good as well as the Bad.  I can understand and personally practice hiding the Ugly.

 Decoding a Progress-Resistant Bug
Bureaucratosis thrives in lunchrooms, coffee breaks, meetings, discussions and distributed bulletins. It can withstand more criticism than President Clinton can.

The Aeromedical Certification Division has used Bureaucratosis it to help perpetuate the vast accumulation of misplaced letters and medical reports in the mailroom. The place of Bureaucratosis' origin is a mystery, but some scientists wonder how it acquired all the hardy properties required of perpetual inertia.

It is just a tiny aspect of the entire governmental operation, but in deference to its awesome powers scientists have named it Bureaucratosis, a Greco-Latin amalgam meaning weird, progress-resistant bug. Hoping to learn the secret of its origins and amazing resistance to progress, scientists at the Institute for Genomic Research in Bethesda, Md., have decoded the 33,284,156 letters of its genetic message.

And what has been learned?

"The bottom line is that Bureaucratosis has no reasonable answer as to why the bug is so progress resistant," said Dr. Jonathan Hsiootar of the Uninformed Services University of Government Health Sciences in Bethesda and a co-author of a new report about it.

Dr. B. D. Cooper, a Bureaucratosis expert at Alabama State University in Birmingham, who was not involved in the genome decoding, said, "The part that is absolutely amazing to me is that there is no obvious explanation for its amazing progress resistance."

Still, the sequence of the strange bug's genome, described in today's issue of the National Inquirer, hints at many of the little organism's survival stratagems.

"The $4.16 million cost of the project was paid for by the Commerce Department as part of a program for sequencing industrially important microbes. The department hopes the microbe will migrate to high activity sites and yield information about training people in the finer art form of procrastination, said Dr. Can DeLay, a senior official.

Bureaucratosis was first isolated in 1812 by watching the distribution of jars of jelly
that had been left in storage, or so it was thought. When the Bureaucratosis is given extra doses of fluids such as water or coffee, some bugs can survive exposure to paper files for up to six months without moving those files. Being 'away from desk' is the most common explanation.  The unanswered phone has been replaced by the unanswered 'voice mail'. Automated voices without intonation or feeling avoid any sense of caring or responsibility.

Scientists have studied the possibility of Bureaucratosis being replaced by a legislative induced mutation -- damage to individual DNA (Do not advance) units has occurred-- but is not deadly to Bureaucratosis cells because it can survive governmental flip-flops. Most bacteria can repair a couple of double legislative breaks but cannot open with more. Bureaucratosis can knit together its DNA even after the genome has been blasted into more than 100 pieces.

Even more surprisingly, Bureaucratosis somehow recognizes and corrects all the mutated DNA units. "It repairs double-strand breaks and keeps the genome totally free of mutation; it truly is extraordinary," Dr. B.D. Cooper said.

The genome sequencing team at the Institute for Genomic Research has now found that bureaucratosis' DNA (Do not Advance)is arranged in the form of four circles, which between them code for 3,187 genes. The team, led by Dr. B.D. Cooper Jr., has identified the role of some 2,000 of these agents by comparing them with agents of known function logged in DNA data banks. The other thousand agents have no match and have unknown roles in their effect on delay.  However, it noted that their telephone responses bear a marked similarity to the automated voices heard elsewhere.

All Bureaucratosis cells have a kit of special procedures, known as guidelines, which repair damaged DNA. Dr. Cooper said Bureaucratosis seemed to have much the same type of guidelines in its DNA repair kit, although in several cases it possessed more copies of the guideline agents. "Bureaucratosis is like bugs in many other governmental agencies: it doesn't have any new features the other agencies don't have, it just happens to have ALL of them," he said.

One special capability, though, is a family of delays that evict damaged DNA units from the cell. Eviction is a smart step because it prevents the damaged units from being reincorporated into DNA and reintroducing a mutation. Any effort to change the process or guidelines is subverted to maintain the existing status quo.

Bureaucratosis maintains at least four copies of its genome in each cell, and Dr. Cooper believes that identical circles of DNA are stacked up like lifesavers in a tube. When a double-strand break occurs in one circle, the repair kit enzymes can refer to the neighboring strand's sequence for mending the break. Nothing changes regardless of exterior influences.

Evolution teaches that an organism will possess only the abilities that it needs to survive. So where in the world did Bureaucratosis live that required it to withstand so many years of damming criticism? Because the normal process of criticism nowhere reaches the barest fraction of any administrative level, Dr. Cooper believes that Bureaucratosis evolved to withstand conditions of extreme dryness and isolation.  The genetic traits of hearing only what you need to hear, knowing only what you need to know and seeing as little as possible are indicative of the situation and its perpetuation.

Bureaucratosis, he said, will produce the same double breaks in DNA (do not advance) as Radiation, and probably mutations as well. "So complaint resistance is just a fortuitous consequence of that evolutionary process," he said. Delay is an essential element for the continued existence of the Aeromedical Certification Division.

The completed sequence of the Bureaucratosis genome confirms the suspicion that it is quite closely related to Papirius Philus, a bacterium that lives in near-total darkness on dirty shelving. This common ancestry may have equipped Bureaucratosis to live in another kind of extreme environment, that of high aridity without coffee machines or drinking fountains. Bureaucratosis has been found in the interiors of Antarctic mountains that have not seen any natural liquids for thousands of years, Dr. Cooper said.

Dr. B. D. Cooper, senior, sees Bureaucratosis as a scavenger, probably adapted to feed off other less developed forms of DNA. The microbe is found all over the world and wherever offices exist it is very common. Its strategy may be that of a survival specialist. Other time-wasting creations will outgrow it in the near term but will eventually succumb to drought or downsizing; Bureaucratosis will always outlast them, and dine on the carcasses.

The greatest fear of experts is that a derivative of Bureaucratosis has been incorporated into the Blaster computer virus.  This will make the use of more paper required due to the failure of computers to cope with the increasing problem of undesired and useless information. Fortunately, while having no taste for recognition, this incredible bug is recognized for what it is: a total waste.

Unknowns about Your Medical
--More than 90% of medicals are initially approved.
--With delay an additional six percent are approved.
–1,800 applications are received every day with 72 doomed to rejection.
--72 x 5 = is 360 per week @ 50 weeks per year is 18,000 broken hearts
--Many of the ‘requirements’ are based upon extremely outdated medical technology.
--Any attempt to find out what is happening to your application is an opportunity to delay the process.
--The program is a ‘make work’ process where over time delayed applications are processed twice or more.
--Semi-unreasonable demands on additional tests, responses by doctors all serve to delay the process.
--The FAA criteria is absolute safety similar to the zero-zero criteria that rejected the ILS for years and was directly responsible for the loss of thousands of aircraft and many more times lives in WWII.

What You Can Do
--You can BUY your medical. There are former FAA personnel who have organizations capable of using the ‘good ole boy network’ to get you your medical for a price. The trickle down income makes every rejection a potential windfall for all.
--The AME group are a varied group of practitioners some who work to the benefit of pilots and others who work otherwise. Hard to tell them apart.
--Jumping correctly through hoops becomes a costly time consuming process with success only a probability.
--Once you become a part of the rejected process it takes more than time and medical information.
--The Aeromedical Certification Division can reject, agree and issue a certificate or request further information.
--On rejection you may now request reconsideration based upon a letter from your AME.
--On further denial you may appeal to the NTSB for a Board hearing by an administrative law judge.
--On further rejection you may appeal to the full Board.
--Your last ditch effort means to go through the federal court system

Your opponent is:
FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institutute
Aeromedical Certification Division,
P.O. Box 26080
Oklahoma City, OK 73126

If you phone expect hours and hours of hold time. I spent hundreds of dollars on phone calls for my four month effort to retain my medical. See Case #18

Your FAA Medical and Pilot File
You can obtain a copy of everything the FAA has in both my medical and pilot files?

A: For a fee you can receive a copy of everything in your FAA file.
Send a signed, written request, stating your name, date of birth, social
security number, and/or certificate number, along with a check or money
order for $10 to the FAA Airmen Certification Branch, AFS-760, Post
Office Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK 73125-0082. Or if you prefer, you
can download the FAA's online request form
( ) and mail it to the above

Meet the Enemy
You may have seen my earlier post about the issue with my AME's office screwing up my student certificate. Well, he straightened it out, and now I can't fly. Rather than editorialize, I will just lay out the chronology and let you make your own judgments. It starts in 1965,
believe it or not, but isn't TOO long...

March 1965: I am a disruptive and distractible four-year old when they are trying to teach us to read (I already knew how to read and was, in part, bored). I am sent to visit with the school psychologist. We talk some on two occasions and play a board game. That's the last I hear of it. I complete grade school, junior high and high school, college, and law school, with no meds or educational assistance, test in the 99th percentile on all standardized aptitude tests for college and law school, and am named a National Merit Scholar.

September 2004: I see my doctor about my congenital borderline hypertension, some tendonitis in my wrist from typing, and the fact that I feel sometimes distractible in my high-tension job as a trial lawyer in public service. We talk, and I relate my grade school issue.  He writes a history of tendonitis, hypertension, and ADD.

February 2005. I finally get to the point in my finances and schedule where I can live my dream of flying. I go to Samuel Scott, M.D., at Washington Occupational Health, and pay $140 for a Class III medical exam. Dr. Scott jokes, "flying, huh? So, you have some extra money you don't need? How about giving it to me?" I explain to him that I am getting my medical to make sure there are no issues before I spend the time and money in flight training. He notes my BP meds, tells me I can't qualify, then goes away for a while, and comes back with the BP evaluation protocol he seems to have just discovered. Over the next couple of weeks, I submit the necessary records (including the September 2004 note that has a BP reading on it) and the stuff from my MD.) I pass the medical, but never receive my certificate...

March 2005: After weeks of trying to find out why I don't have my certificate, without explanation, I am told by his office assistant to come in and pick it up, which I do. I start flight training.

November 21, 2005: 8.5 months and $10,000 later (I am in the ADIZ and have to fly 20 minutes each way to and from the practice area, which adds to the cost) my CFI has me schedule my checkride for December 5.I try to register for IACRA and can't. FAA tells me the number on the certificate in my possession does not match the paperwork the AME's
office submitted to the FAA. FAA says AME has to fax in explanation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 (13 days to checkride): I call the AME to get this corrected and he says "it's the holidays and I'm leaving town." I indicate some urgency because of the impending checkride. He says he will look into it when the office assistant gets back in on

Monday, November 28 (7 days to checkride): I call and talk to the office assistant. First she ever heard of it (she's not the same one who issued the faulty certificate). Pledges to look into it and says she will call back Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 29 (6 days...): Call office assistant back. She's not in the office that day.

Wednesday, November 30 (5 days...): AME calls me, says former office assistant messed up my certificate and just filled in a new one to give me. He explained she was not used to them being numbered, because only student pilot certificates are numbered. Informs me the number is now straightened out. However, he noticed the ADD notation in the September 2004 record and says "that is a disqualifying condition.  Goodbye." End of story. No help, no mention of any protocol to submit additional information, nor any explanation of why he didn't think of this when he performed the exam and signed off originally. Recall that I obtained the exam BEFORE I spent the time and money training, just to make sure.

Saturday, December 3 (checkride is Monday, December 5): I receive letter from FAA dated November 30 revoking my medical, and suggesting I "voluntarily" surrender it within 14 days or face legal action. Attached is a protocol for a battery of tests to be performed by a psychologist or psychiatrist and submit if I want to be re-evaluated.  Tests include an IQ test, Rorschach (inkblot) test, alcoholism and depression screening, and other tests for which the relevance isn't apparent.

Anyway, that's my story. I have submitted a letter from my primary MD pointing out that the diagnosis of ADD did not even exist in 1965, and that I received no treatment, so his history is in error. Waiting to see what the FAA says...

In the meantime, I'd like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone in this newsgroup for sharing their knowledge of flying, and their passion for it, during my brief foray into the blue. You all really added a lot to it.

Gene says. "After all the times I have been screwed by lawyers, I still find it difficult to feel sorry for one."

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Continued on Page 2.96 Medicals from Hell