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Medicals from Hell
Beginning with Case 65 at the bottom
Case 75 and Things have NOT improved
One of the 1st surprises was the application itself. *Which class license are you applying for?* I didn't know so I left it blank. (mistake #2) *Are you on any meds?* My doctor has been treating me for "borderline hypertension" for a year. That means my blood pressure is too high to be considered normal and too low to be considered high. I take the lowest possible dosage of an ACE inhibitor for this. I'd already researched this and found that ACE inhibitors are on the approved FAA list of meds that pilots can take so I wasn't worried about it. Though at the FAA "doctor's" office I couldn't remember the exact name of the drug I was taking. (mistake #3) So I finish up the app. and sit down with the "doctor".
He takes a look at my app. and he knew right away I wasn't familiar with the process. "You have to pick a license class", he tells me. I explained that I didn't know what the different classifications were and could he explain them? His answer was that I should just apply for a 1st class license and I could always downgrade later if I wanted to. Sounded reasonably. Then it was "Oh by the way that means you'll need an EKG and that's $60 extra but since you're over 40 you really should have an up-to-date EKG anyway." I was missing work for this and just wanted to get it over with so I agreed. (mistake #4) So we go on with the checkup. Everything is fine and the last step is the EKG. He hooks me up to a bunch of probes from a machine that looked like it came out of the 60's. He starts the machine and gets the print out. He says, "Uh oh, you'll never be able to get a 1st class."
Why not?? "Because you've had a heart attack! You know, a part of your heart was denied oxygen and it died!" The readout had indicated something like "Possible Old Interior Infarction" He tried another reading. The only difference between the 1st and 2nd readings was that my heart rate had gone from about 55 bpm to 101 bpm in less then 60 seconds. So he says, "Don't worry about it we'll just downgrade your application to 2nd class which the FAA doesn't require an EKG and we'll pretend this never happened. I'll still need that extra 60 bucks tho."
He then tells me that if I would send him the name of the drug I'm taking he'd forward it to the FAA and that I'd "have no problem getting the certificate." 'Course at this point I'm pretty freaked out. I'd just been told by a "doctor" that I have a heart problem. At that point my top concern was my health so I decided to put everything else on hold till I got to the bottom of this. I called up my doctor to tell him what happened. He assured my that he didn't believe the readout was accurate and he would schedule me an Echocardiogram just to make sure.
That's the same thing they do to look at babies in the womb, only for the heart. I was about 2.5 weeks before I could get an appointment and another week for the results. I decided to wait on the results before dealing anymore with the FAA process, i.e. I waited to forward my prescription drug info to the FAA "doctor". (mistake #5) A month plus after starting this process I finally get the results and my heart is fine. My doctor tells me that older EKG machines would automatically kick out a warning if the readout didn't exactly match what's considered a textbook rhythm. But that any competent doctor should have been able to read the EKG strip and see there wasn't really a problem.
So I finally write to my FAA "doctor". I supplied him with my prescription drug info and asked him to forward it to the FAA as he had promised. Though I was very cordial I did explain to him how his error had caused me a lot of grief and I was not happy with his service. (mistake #6) The "doctor" never forwarded my prescription info to the FAA.
I didn't know that at the time so at this point I know I'm healthy and have been given assurances that I would be given an Airman's Medical Cert. so I started my training in earnest. Almost 5 months later I get a letter from the FAA stating they can't decide whether I qualify for a Medical because they are missing my prescription info. I wrote them right back to give them the info they requested. 6-7 weeks later I get another letter from the FAA. It states that since I'm being treated for hypertension I need to give them the results of a full blown physical to prove I'm healthy. This means a new EKG, a full range of blood tests, family history reports etc... This run-around is starting to get to me since this piece of paper is keeping me from soloing.
I found an e-mail address on the net for the FAA. I wrote to them explaining my situation and even that I'd had a recent Echo of my heart and could I use that to speed things up? The one line response I
got back was, "No Echo. Supply what was requested." So it takes well over a month to pull it all this new stuff together. I got my doc (former pilot himself) to write a nice long letter addressing every data point the FAA had requested information on. I finally send the copies of a brand new EKG, all the blood test results and the letter to the FAA. I wait another 6 weeks and get another letter from the FAA. They have accepted my EKG and blood tests results but still want the rest of the information.
Now I'm getting pissed! I've been dealing with this for a year, I've been flying less then once a month till I can get it fixed, my hours are piling up without a solo and there seems like there's no end in sight. I write back to the one FAA e-mail contact I have and explain that I've already supplied everything requested more then once but keep getting the same letter back. The one line response was "Please call the FAA in Oklahoma City at (405) 954-4821 regarding your status." I called the number to see what the problem was. I was told I didn't supply any of the information about my prescription, family history, etc...
I tell the guy it's all in the letter my doctor wrote, on his letterhead, which was part of the package I had sent them. At this point there was a lot of "hhmmmm aahhhhh hhmmm uummmmm". "Everything seems to be here but maybe the reviewers couldn't read your doctor's handwriting! Maybe you could get a typed copy from him?" So I'm forced to call my doctor back for more help in getting through this. His response was that I'm too healthy to be wasting his time on this so instead of typing up the same letter he wants to talk directly to the FAA guy. I didn't think it would help but I gave him the number. The next day my doctor calls me back to tell me that the FAA pretty much admitted to him that I had been caught in a bureaucratic loop and they should have issued my Medical a long time ago!!!! That was only a couple of days ago but I've been promised I'll get that magic piece of paper before the end of the month. I plan on a solo flight very soon afterwards. (can't wait)
Case 73 and Case 72Two Nearly Identical recent Situations but Much Different Results. Silbermans's List lives on and Bureaucratosis Spreads; ...
A Medical from Hell in Several Parts
I was exposed to toxic mold and asbestos while working at the oh so ethically bereft corporation of Lockheed Martin. My lungs got so hozed from it that I developed a disease called "hypersensitivity pneumonitis" which, in short, means, in order to try to protect themselves, they begin to constrict the airways to limit the damage inflicted by the scum in the air and the asbestos. Hint: if you report what happens to you to the F.A.A., even though you have no lingering effects of the disease except a healthy dose of cynicism and disgust, you are indeed going to get screwed. Now, read on.
Next, I go see an AME in Grand Rapids, MI, that practices at Rectum Health (Spectrum Health) off M-37. Though I pass every single test, he reads my disclosure on the form and says; "gosh, I don't know what to do
now.." and then disappears. When he comes back, even though I have had my vision test and passed it, he takes the paper eye chart that says to hold it more than a foot from your face, shoves it to within a gnat's ass of my snoot, and demands I read it. At this time I grab it and tell him; "why don't YOU read it for me, you have the bifocals on" and of course, he can't read it either. I stride out of there a hundred and twenty bucks lighter and no medical.
My physicians send the requisite documents to him, and then another month ensues and not a clue what's going on. I call F.A.A. in Oklahoma City and Regional in Chicago, and a Dr. Heart actually tries to help me. He can see the notes the inept pile of camel dung left in the records about me, but reflects; "gee, there are no records in
Finally, with A.O.P.A.'s help, and my own ingenuity, I get Regional to send me their wish list, which in three parts says; "get another eye check done" and "get a pulmonary function test" and "declare you have had no dizziness or blurred vision" before the 17th. of June. All of this I do. But I send a letter to the regional gent, Nestor Kowalski, that in effect states; "you WILL send me the stuff the incompetent AME sent you, those are my records and I want them.."
You can guess the rest. The bone smokers in Chicago (regional) now do not acknowledge anything I send them, be it fax, e-mail, or smoke signal. I talked to A.O.P.A. and they suggest a lawsuit. As I have their legal coverage, they will help me, but I must wait another week.
Moral to the story: "when dealing with incompetent and inept F.A.A. beaurocracy, watch out, these dorks will hide your medical under some boulder and pretend they haven't got a clue what they did with it...", in essence, "my nearly 100k license isn't worth the shinola it's printed on.." Was it worth it? naw, be smart, expatriate, and get a license from a REAL GOVERNMENT, like the one in Zimbabwe or Tanzania. They're more ethical.
I am astounded. Today I told them in a fax that my patience had indeed ended. I told them; "it's now litigation time, gents.."I think they'll give my my medical. and yes, indeed I will keep you posted. don't want to buy the medical, I don't have any disqualifications, just happened to collide with their version of reality, which, in effect, is "I have the power to ground you and you better kiss my ass.." well, last time I checked my nose wasn't brown. Haven't been good at that one. must've lit a fire under someone's asshole there. Might be an illusion but I would like to think that I'll actually get my medical now. I can't see myself putzing with them alot longer than I already have. It takes alot of effort and far as I can see, the results are far less certain every second you proceed than when you began. I'm sure that asshole Silberman has a file with 'us' in it, his quest, if you would, to rid the planet of vermin airmen like us who are less aryan perfect than himself. bet the weasel has beady eyes and a snout like an anteater. anyway, you can add to the episode that threatening them with lawsuits doesn't necessarily hurt you either. I used to believe 'nice' was the way to go, but these dorks only understand raw unmitigated power. Some of them know their retirements would be in the air if 'fired' for incompetence because some congressman or senator out to make a name for his/herself sacrificed them to make a point.
I don't think they are as insular as you'd believe. but I do believe they have a severe manning problem (probably a severe competency problem as well, is my take on it) and hence, 'gridlock' ensues when ANY
paperwork goes to them. wanna hear something shitty? last medical I got, they charged me for the EKG and never performed it, but I have the receipt for it. How's that for bogus. I could have hooked one of my cats up to the fucker for all they'd have known, had they actually taken it....they pretend to ship that over the phone to the F.A.A. but that's bullshit.
so much for the medical. and I do believe you can buy them. I'd rather cut the license up and whip that to them and tell them to stick it than pay them money for something I am entitled to because I am not sick. one gent I talked to last week is about to lose his medical for diabetes. you wouldn't know it if you saw him. he's on oral insulin now but says in a few months, it'll have to be the injection pump or needle. then adios letter that says he can fly under the exemption.
competent pilot too. probably not unlike yourself, and my guess is, alot fitter than most of the airline stooges I have seen with pot bellies waddling thru airline terminals. not that portly makes one unhealthy, but if those fuckers are fit enough, so are you, and me, and the diabetic. no more risk than they are. who knows, in another universe somewhere, the F.A.A. is actually competent, isn't screwing pilots left and right, and doesn't have dorks like Silberman meting out medical executions. in another universe far far away.
well Gene, this is the latest:
apparently, those assholes at A.O.P.A. are probably in cahoots with the F.A.A., least in that even though I bought the insurance for the legal coverage, their lawyers won't call me back or assist. Their medical dude, Gary, seems to be peeved that I am so very inflexible about additional hoop jumping. As I type this, they got the additional stuff they required from me, regarding statements from me about no additional fainting spells, full PFT's, and vision checks, all passed. Allegedly, now A.O.P.A. says they want blood pressure monitoring too, which is a new addition to the requirements, which means "fishing expedition" here.
I spoke to a CNN anchor about this yesterday, she says they are likely to steamroller me strictly because nobody is minding the store (nobody's accountable) but is willing to try to help. For confidentiality reasons I won't mention her name here.
In addition, I wrote my two legislators from Michigan, both democrats, Levin is one of them, but I don't know how much help I will get. I took it up with Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C., and of course,
as you knew, I had complained to the Office of the Inspector Genital, Dept. of Transmogrification, but got no answer.
so, that's it in a nutshell. seems they can keep heaping things on this into infinity, the A.O.P.A. guy intimated they are like this because they fear a lawsuit. Duh? what the hell did they expect? a dozen roses? what assholes.
anyways, that's the report as of today. I also have had little luck in getting them to reply to me with anything meaningful in fax or e-mail, they only come back with snotty one liners. The only shining thing about it is the F.A.A. in OKC girl is polite. but A.O.P.A. is a bunch of turds. I wouldn't recommend them as dog catchers.
The First of Two Medicals
Here is my account of my medical.. Names omitted to protect the guilty. I hope others learn from my experience. Its ironic that the FAA won't let you take medication to quit smoking, but you can smoke two packs a day and get certified without a problem. I have no doubt that the diminished lung capacity is more dangerous than the medication at 10,000 feet.
According to my instructor I am three or four flights away from soloing --- time to make an appointment with an AME so I will have my Student Pilot Certificate in hand when that day arrives.
Getting an appointment was easy. I found a doctor in San Jose on the FAA web site whose office is close enough to my home. The exam should be no problem. I'm 32, in good physical condition, with 20/20 vision, a non-smoker, and the only time that I have seen a doctor since I had mono in 1988 was to receive 12 stitches in my knee from a windsurfing accident. This morning I arrive at the doctor's office where I am promptly asked to urinate into a cup and given the FAA application to fill out. Pretty straight forward: I check "no" on every item except for allergies and hayfever. Now I need to list the medications that I currently take: Claritan and Flonase for my allergies, and...I hesitate. I started taking Wellbutrin (aka Zyban) to quit smoking several years ago. Since it proved very effective in my case and produced no side effects, my physician, who is also my best friend and a pilot, felt that there was no harm in my continuing to take it. My first inclination is to omit it from the form, but what if it affects my urinalysis? From my understanding, it is a relatively common and innocuous medication, so I decided, unlike many politicians, better to be honest now than to be caught in a lie later.
Time for the exam itself, the doctor looks over my application and immediately stops. He has me add a comment that the Claritan and Flonase are non sedating. I thought that was obvious, but he says the FAA is very strict about these things. He continues "The Wellbutrin is definitely going to be a problem. I will have to defer your application to the FAA..." Vaguely recalling some horror story on the AOPA website regarding the massive backlogs and long delays, I immediately explain that I take it for smoking cessation not depression, and I would be more than willing to cease taking it immediately to avoid a problem with my application. He responds that he still has to include it on the application and defer to the FAA, but reassures me that he has obtained certificates for patients with far more serious medical issues than mine (triple bypass's, cancer, etc). "Some of the serious cases take up to 6 months, but if you get a note from your doctor indicating that you take Wellbutrin for smoking cessation, and will stop immediately, it shouldn't take more than a couple of months". A couple of months! I will be ready to solo in a couple of weeks if the weather cooperates. At this point I am obsessed with flying, and the notion of not being able to pursue my goal for two to six months is unfathomable. I suggest that I not complete the examination, discuss it with my doctor and instructor and come back again after I sort the whole thing out. A clever scheme, but the AME replies that he must send my completed form to the FAA whether I complete the exam or not.
Oh well. I crossed the point of no return. We continue with the examination, and everything goes smoothly. My far vision is 20/20 and my near vision is only fractionally worse. My blood pressure is acceptable but a little high for someone my age (probably because I am about to blow an o-ring over my impending Kafkaesque encounter with the FAA Aeorspace Medical Certification Division). As the exam continues, the AME and I switch to small talk. It turns out the we are both avid sailors, a group that is almost as exclusive as pilots (the jury is still out on which is more difficult: learning to fly or learning to sailf). He has to cut a fellow sailor some slack! After the exam, the AME proposes that I get the letter from my physician that we discussed, and he send it with my application to Oklahoma City. He insists that he can get my certificate in two weeks if the examiner approves it. I'm skeptical to say the least, but I promptly call the doctor who prescribed the medication. As the person who inspired me to become a pilot, he understands exactly how important this is to me and his letter arrives on the AME's fax machine before the receptionist finishes processing my credit card.
I get home, and I am in a foul mood. The cat wants food. I yell at the cat (he knows that he doesn't get fed until 5:00 and its only 2:00). A few minutes later, my friend calls me, apologizes for not realizing that the Wellbutrin might present a problem on the FAA application and suggests that I contact AOPA to see if they can offer any advice on expediting the process. He also suggest that I take up flying gliders in the mean time since it does not require a medical certificate. I go to AOPA's web site and read the ugly truth about the situation with medical certificates. Now I'm really depressed, but I call anyways. When I explain the situation to the AOPA certification expert and indicate that I am concerned, she replies without hesitation "and you should be concerned. Wellbutrin results in automatic denial. They will issue your certificate only after you have been off the medication for 90 days." She continues to explain that the chances that the OKC examiner will waive the 90 days are slim. On the brighter side she explains that my application won't have to be thrown into the black hole in Oklahoma City as there are expediters who can speed things up.. Three months appears to be the magic number. Now I truly need the antidepressants.
Time to break the bad news to my instructor. He immediately suggests that I reduce my lessons to once a week to minimize my expense without regressing to much while I wait. Could be worse. He continues with war stories about medicals and smoking. He is on a personal crusade to both eradicate smoking and eliminate the inefficiencies in the FAA's Medical Certification Process. At some point my call waiting blinks in. I don't recognize the number on caller ID, but I suspect that it is my AME. I tell my instructor that I will call him soon to schedule my next weekly lesson, and pickup the incoming call. It is my AME: "We handled this exactly as it should be handled. The explanation from your doctor was exactly what we needed. The medical examiner approved your application and you will have your certificate in the mail next week!" Needless to say, I can hardly contain myself. I thanked him profusely (he'll get a nice gift from me this Christmas), and called my instructor to tell him the good news. Much ado about nothing? Maybe, but my "problem" was relatively simple, my AME took the time to go to bat for me.
My advice. First, if you think that you want to be a pilot, get your medical certificate as soon as possible. Don't wait until the eleventh hour. If you don't mind considering it part of the upfront costs (mine was $130, but I did not shop around and paid the big city penalty), get the certificate before you start your training. Obviously, if you have a certificate that is going to expire, renew it 3 months early, 6 months if you know that there is going to be an issue. Second, read the FAR, look at the AOPA web site, and check the list of medications and conditions that the FAA frowns upon. If you have any questions, contact your personal doctor before seeing the AME, and have him provide detailed documentation of your condition and an exculpatory letter explaining why it will not affect your ability to be a pilot. If you are taking a medication that the FAA does not allow, ask if you can stop taking it or switch to a different medication. Finally, many people suggest that you avoid checking or including anything that would raise any issues with the AME or FAA. I always feel that honesty is the best policy, but many of the FAA's medical rules are draconian and do nothing to enhance the safety of aviation. That said, they require the medical certification for a reason, and no passenger would be happy if the pilot had a seizure at 35000 feet. It is definitely a judgment call. If you are not sure whether your condition or medication poses a danger, consult a doctor other than your AME and ask if your condition would effect your ability to fly a plane before omitting it from your application. Honesty worked for me...barely.
My opinion. The AME's are all well trained, competent doctors and many of them are pilots as well. Even if they are not pilots, as AME's they certainly should have a solid understanding of the physical and mental capabilities required of a pilot. The FAA must allow AME's to exercise their judgment as physicians and issue certificates in cases where a medication or condition presents no hindrance to a person's ability to be a pilot. Clearly the FAA can establish guidelines as to when an AME must defer an application to ensure that questionable cases are investigated thoroughly. The current system reminds me of mandatory minimum sentences for criminals where judges are not allowed to differentiate between the major drug trafficker and the curious teenager. Ignore the mitigating circumstances, 25 to life for everyone. If the FAA would let the AME's act as doctors, not just data gathering devices, they might just eliminate the notorious backlog from which they currently suffer.
I know of one pilot who spends a minimum of $7,000 per medical to satisfy the requirements of Dr. Silberman's empire.
Bureaucratosis Spreads (The Second Medical)
When I took my medical exam I was given the standard simple medical questionnaire. The questionnaire asked if I had taken any prescription drugs in the past. I honestly answered that I had previously taken
antidepressants for mild depression (dysthymia). I am not currently taking any medication (for about 4 or 5 years). The FAA quickly rejected my medical certificate. I'm now looking at paying $120 an hour to a psychologist to evaluate my mental condition. This is probably going to cost me $3000. I can't help but feel bitter about this whole thing. The costs of the these medical tests alone will more than double the total cost of my flying lessons.
Is there some appeal I go through to limit the scope of this medical exam? If not, then can anyone recommend a psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area willing to charge less than $120 an hour for this
The FAA Aeromedical Certification Division wants the following in order to reconsider my medical certificate:
a. A current psychological test evaluation:
1. Wisconsin Card Sorting Test
2. The Trail Making Test
3. The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT)
b. A report by a qualified clinical psychologist.
The report should include:
1. The complete Wechslet Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-R)
2. The Minnesorta Multiphasic Personality Inventory
c. The report must also three or more of the following tests:
1. Cognitive function screening test such as Category Test,
Wechsler Memory Scale, California Verbal Learning, or Rey Auditory
2. Projective test such as Rorschach or Sentence Completion
3. Personality inventory such as NEO-R,
Personality Assessment Inventory,
Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI)
4. Symptom screening test such as Beck or Hamilton or depression or
MAST for alcoholism.
Any words of advice? Does anyone have any experience with a similar situation?
I am 53. I have 12 hours in. I am in good shape and I really want to fly. Had my student physical today. I put down the kidney stone I had in **1980** - no recurrences. The doc said it could be a deal-breaker. I went to my urologist - hadn't seen him since '80 - thought he would be retired or dead. Records were trashed years ago.
The local hospital might have the old records, but I'm not holding my breath. The examining doc will offer to the FAA that I'm OK. I could get an IVP radioscopic exam to prove I don't have any stones, but that's gonna cost a few hundred and a shot of radiation. Aside from having my scruples removed and my head examined for being too honest and not consulting this NG about the exam beforehand, what are my odds that the exam doc's OK will fly for this particular medical history item?
-Anonymous and slightly paranoid student.
Shouldn't be a problem you just need another IVP or Scan that shows you are stone free. I had the same problem. Luckily I had a scan that was a few months old showing I was stone free. Got my 3rd class med on the spot.
If your AME is not sure and thinks it is disqualifying have him call the FAA and/or get an AME that knows what he is doing.
I'm having to deal with this right now. Since I have a history of stones the FAA issues me a medical from OK City every year and requests the results of a KUB or IVP annually before they issue the medical. Now let me give you a little advice that I had to learn the hard way. DON'T give them any more than what they ask for. I made the mistake of letting my AME and another Flight Surgeon talk me into getting a CT scan on a newly acquired scan machine. Now anybody that knows anything about CT scan machines knows that their resolution is many times better than an IVP or even conventional X-Ray. But you see the FAA didn't ask for a CT scan, if you get my drift.
Turns out the CT scan picked up a very minute particle that the radiologist "THOUGHT" "MIGHT BE" a calcium particle in the non-problem kidney which would not have shown up in an IVP and also which may have already been there or a long time. This finding then caused my AME to hold up my medical until the FAA can look at the paperwork. While he doesn't think there will be a problem getting the medical, he doesn't want to take a chance on being slapped by the FAA. Now it will take 4 to 6 weeks (probably 8 with the holidays) to get the medical. If I had known this I would have first of all not agreed to the CT scan and I would have renewed the medical a couple of months early to avoid the gap. To answer your question the easiest and cheapest thing is a KUB. If that's all they ask for that's all they'd get from me. Good Luck.
Don`t know the FAA logic on this, but as a radiologist, I can assure you that you do not need to be subjected to an IVP and the risks associated with intravenous contrast injection. An ultrasound is safer and can be used to eliminate within reason, the presence of kidney stones. The problem is the FAA logic might not find this sufficient. If you want to go whole hog, a CT scan of the kidneys (without contrast) would be the way to go
First post to the group. Thanks to all who've been posting, as I've used this group as a major component to my education regimen.
I started my PPL training last September out of Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix, AZ (DVT). It's a great place to learn in that it's a Class-D field, with two runways, and is fairly busy. There are two schools at DVT, so there's a lot of training activity along with the regular flow of GA and the occasional corporate jet. DVT is also adjacent to the Phoenix Class-B airspace. To add a little more spice to the mix, there's a sail plane and ultralight field off to the west and Luke AFB as well.
Things were progessing well last fall, but my medical examiner decided he'd have to send my application to the FAA for approval due to an episode with kidney stones a few years ago. Needless to say, this slowed down my training quite a bit. My instructor felt I was pretty much ready to solo at about 18 hours. While waiting for the medical, we continued the dual training for a few more hours until it became impractical to continue. Up until yesterday, my last time in the airplane was January 4 this year.
I've learned a couple of things since - the FAA is slow to manage your paperwork. If you are a new student, go get your medical exam ASAP. That way, if there's any problem, you can work to resolve it with the FAA before your solo time comes along. I had signed up with AOPA early on in my training. They have a service whereby they help chase your paperwork through the FAA. I hadn't heard anything from the FAA more than a month after my application was sent to them. Reading lots of articles in the press about their backlog didn't make me feel any better! Within days of asking AOPA to assist, I received a response from the FAA on my paperwork. CFIs - encourage new students to get their medical exam right away. If there is any problem, they'll have time to get it taken care of. Join AOPA - the services available on their web site alone are worth the membership price. The help I got with my paperwork at the FAA was worth it as well.
I've wanted to fly all my life. My dad and grandfather flew crop dusters long before I came along. So far, out of six kids, I'm the only one who's taken this thing up and I'm 39 years old. I would think that some folks might give up facing the frustration one can experience in working through their medical clearance with the FAA. But then, I am a stubborn man! I knew that my health is excellent and my doctor assures me that I am no more likely to develop further problems with kidney stones than anyone else so long as I do a few simple things (like drinking enough water each day, etc.). I was always sure I'd get my clearance eventually. The time involved is more frustrating and discouraging than you can imagine.
Just over a week ago, I returned from a week-long vacation in Mexico to find my medical certification in the mail! I was walking about two feet off the ground the entire day! I called my training facility last Monday and let them know I'd like to get back at it. My CFI had retired in my absence, so I had to get paired up with a new CFI. No problem, I figure it's good to get another perspective during my training anyway. I really liked my old instructor though. He was a retired high school teacher and had been flying for over 25 years. I gave him a call to let him know that I was back at it and to thank him for his instruction last fall.
Yesterday, I showed up bright and early for my 7:00 AM appointment
to hit the skies with my new CFI, understandably anxious to get
back in the plane. Unfortunately, my CFI had just called in sick.
I asked if another instructor was available and that I'd hang
around all day if need be until one was. I'd been hitting the
books pretty hard the whole week and as Saturday got closer and
closer, I was more and more excited with each passing hour. I
was not going to be turned away! Fortunately, there was a CFI
available who's student hadn't shown up for his lesson (too bad
We got ourselves a plane, ironically enough it was the same one I flew in January the last time I went up. Westwind Aviation has just over 20 172s available, mostly new models which I prefer to fly. However, I like to get in an older one once in a while to get the experience with the appearance of the older instruments and the carb heat. There always seems to be something placarded also. Better to deal with those suprises in training rather than later when you don't have CFI around to make you more comfortable about having only one comm radio versus the two you're used to, etc. Yesterday's plane was an older 172N-180. The extra horsepower is always nice, especially on take off.
The entire time I was working to get my medical, I found it hard to continue with my academics. I didn't know how long the whole process would take and there was always the lingering possibility that the final answer would be no. I felt pretty rusty. The whole week I was hitting my training materials pretty hard. However, once I got up to that plane for the preflight, it all seemed to come back. Other than somewhat bumpy landings, I actually felt like I had flown the plane better than I ever had previously. I had the instructor take me out to the practice area to do some manuevers before heading back to DVT for some touch and go's. During all the maneuvering, I doubt I was ever more than 15 feet off on my altitude. I was worrying about my turn coordination since that had been a constant battle for me previously, but that went well also. I worked as a voice interceptor when I was in the USAF back in the 80's, so my radio work was fine. That was something I was comfortable with right from the start. I also made sure I had the scanner on all week prior to my flight just so I could get used to the sound of the traffic at DVT again. The school is emphasizing a more controlled landing method, which was different from what I'd learned previously. That's my excuse for the rough landings! ;) My old CFI would have me glide in on idle once I felt I could reach the runway. The new method has me coming in with power and that's throwing me off a bit. But it's always good to learn different ways to do things.
I think in some respects my seven month hiatis was good for me, strangely enough. As I've spent time over the past week rerunning the earier lessons in my Cessna CD-ROM training kit, the quizzes all seem so simple. When I did them the first time, I'd miss an answer here and there. Each week during the training, there was a lot of new material so I didn't have so much time to just sit and think about what I'd learned the week before. I'm also picking up bits and pieces that I missed the first time through the material. I would actually advise anyone who has that training kit (or any kit) to go through it again about six months after you get your license. There's more in there to learn once you know what's required for your practical and written tests.
The CFI I went out with said that my previous instructor had
simply done an excellent job. I've since decided I need to send
a card to my old CFI thanking him again for drilling this stuff
into me so well! I was worried that I'd have to back-track quite
a bit before I would be able to solo. However, after yesterday's
experience, I think I'll be ready to do my check ride after another
couple of hours. THEN, I can start going up on my own and start
working with my CFI on the cross country experience! Hopefully,
you'll all see my "First Solo" post in the next few
Be persistent with the FAA including hinting of litigation if it takes too long. I spent 8 months screwing with the FAA over my 3rd class. I had been taking an anti inflammatory drug for spine problems, the drug was fairly new and there wasn't a lot of data on it yet particularly as far as any kind of side effects after you stop taking it. I think it was a steroid of some kind. Anyway, the FAA wanted to make sure I did not have any side effects when I stopped taking it because I had taken it for over a year when I stopped. I stopped because I wanted my medical. So this whole process delayed my training by 8 months. I personally believe the FAA needs to get rid of the medical requirement for PPL. The whole time this was taking place by the way, I was flying gliders under a commercial license every weekend. Requires no medical.
So, if I had it to do all over again, I might fill out the application a little differently. Think about this, if you were the FAA's Medical Examiner (Doctor) and at risk was public perception of flying safety and the FAA's reputation for making flying safe, would you take ANY CHANCES AT ALL?
Before starting flying lessons I explained to my instructor what my problems were with my vision. When I was young, I had a fishhook caught in the right eyeball. The eye continued to work, but like a cut on your arm, a layer of skin grew over the eyeball causing blindness. (This is how it was explained to me by my doctor.)
I went to get my 3rd class medical knowing I would fail the vision test. When the examiner advised me that I failed I told him that I was expecting to fail and that I would like to request a Demonstrated Ability Waiver. I typed out a very nicely worded letter the night before asking for any assistance the FAA could provide in helping me with this request. I included that in the packet sent by the doctor to the FAA Headquarters in OKC.
I waited about 3 months before receiving a letter in the mail. The letter contained 2 letters and a temporary 3rd class student medical with multiple restrictions. This basically allowed me to become proficient in the airplane, allowing me to solo. After solo and when my instructor felt I was ready I placed a call to the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) here in Nashville. I explained why I was calling and transferred to someone that would help me. I scheduled a ride with him.
The day of the ride along, he sat down discussed what was expected on this ride. He explained what he was looking for . He went over my logbook with a fine tooth comb. I filled out some paperwork, nothing serious. We went to the airplane (Cessna 172).had another short briefing, basically PIC stuff. We took off and stayed in the pattern for some touch and gos. The first time around I came in too high, and not being able to clean it up I choose to go around. The 2nd time around I came in right on the numbers. I greased that landing. He then had me exit the traffic pattern. We headed North and he said out there is a power plant. Do you see it? I said yes. He asked me how many stacks it had, I told him 2. He said great. Turn to 060. There is another power plant ahead of us, do you see it. (It was very hazy) And the tower he was asking me to look for was white. After a few minutes I spotted it and he said great, turn to 270. We then started analyzing places for emergency landings. He would ask me question about ground terrain, would I land here or there, why or why not, that sort of thing. He had me locating water towers and asking questions about them like, is it on the ground or on legs. After that me asked me to take him back to the airport.
The one thing I want to stress about this was how nice this man was. He told me that this is the easiest thing you will ever do with the FAA. He not only did his job of making sure I was safe and fit to fly, but he also helped with pointers to help me along with any training. I learned about 3-4 new things that I did not know.
Right eye short-sighted (myopic), 5.5 dpt with 20/20 vision left eye removed lens after an eye-accident (got an arrow shot in the eye) with a 16 dpt contact lens vision 16/20, nearly no vision without the contact lens.
The medical test-flight:
He wanted to be sure I can safely fly the airplane. we made a takeoff, then left the vicinity of the airport. He made me read some instruments, asked me if I can spot something over there (an antenna on the ground), asked if I can tell him if there was a light on top of it and what color it did have (yes, white). then asked me where I would attempt an emergency landing (to see if I can distinguish the different surface patterns), pointed out a moving object in the air and asked me to identify if (seagull).
Then three landings (to see if I can judge the height above the runway correctly) and that's it.now I do have SODA for a 3rd class medical and I'm happy.
I went through a thing with my medical. I had a kidney stone in '89 and because I was honest, I had to prove beyond any doubt to the FAA that I was stone-free. The AME did give me my 3rd class medical certificate the day of my appointment, but I got a letter from the FAA a few weeks later saying that they needed additional documentation.
I had to undergo KUBs, renal tomography, IVPs, regular x-rays, various medical appointments, and spend you-don't-want-to-know how much time and money to get it taken care of. But today I'm flying my own plane. And speaking of Seattle, I just returned from a great flight to Boeing Field (I live in Southern California). I'm sure things will work out for you. In my case, I'm still wondering if I'm going to have to go through the whole thing again when my medical is up for renewal. (By the way, anyone know the answer to that one? If you've had a history of stones, but are stone free and get your medical, will you still have to medically prove on every successive renewal that you are still stone free?) So stick with it, and think of the positive side: once you've got your medical, you'll have experience and advice that might be really helpful to another student pilot with a similar situation. At least, that's the way I try to look at it. :)
I was wrong. I over-reacted. I had a negative attitude for no reason. I apologize. Forgive me newsgroupers, for I was deeply in error. I was just plainly wrong.
Recall that my AME visit was just Tuesday morning.
Got home from work last night and grabbed the mail. In it was a hand-written note from the AME reading, "Upon Further discussion the FAA allowed _me_ to issue. Good Luck!" And there inside a little cardstock piece of paper that reads MEDICAL CERTIFICATE THIRD CLASS AND STUDENT PILOT CERTIFICATE.
There is a limitation listed - I have to wear corrective lenses while exercising the privileges of my airman certificate... but that's no deal at all since without my glasses on, I would be lucky to even find a plane on the tarmac. Note: The above was written just a couple of days after this tale of woe
Went this morning.
Disclaimer - in a very negative mood, perhaps without cause, can't tell. Long in response to a few who are in similar positions as I and wanted details, details, details about the exam. Background: Am a VERY low-time student (7.3 hours). Was rx-d Zoloft for depression last November. Have been off Zoloft for over the required 90 days and have letter from my Dr. stating I no longer need it, yatta yatta. I have never had an AME exam before this morning.]
Summary: I am now officially in deferral hell. With the AME's
recommendation that my 3rd class be given to me. What that means
in reality? No idea. Feeling very hopeless for whatever reason,
though. Got there about 15 minutes early. Finished the paperwork
in maybe 10 minutes max, since I had already filled out the form
at home and just needed to copy it to their form. AME was not
there yet. Dude at desk told me the AME would see me "as
soon as he gets in" Well alright then. Surveyed magazines
in waiting room all of which were minimum 6 months old. Grabbed
one about careers in aviation, why not. Read about Air Rage.
Wondered if an airline might want to hire me for my Psych degree
to write long meaningless papers about combating air rage. Decided
that they probably wouldn't. Waited. Got bored. About 35 minutes
after my scheduled appointment, AME appears. 10 minutes or so
after that, get called into non-waiting room area. Immediately
am asked to pee in a cup.
During that time AME was apparently reading my paperwork, when I came out of bathroom he asked me about the Zoloft and if I had my letter from my Dr. with me. Yup - handed him my letter. He read it and then asked me to take off my glasses and stick my face in the eye check thing like you see at Dept. Of Licensing places. Entire exam was punctuated by him being in a huge hurry so all his instructions ended up coming out in one long word spoken quickly, like
"Putyourheadinthisthingandpressforwardandreadthelowestlineyoucaneasily" Made me stress a little, just by proxy. Gave me a thorough vision test and he thought it was funny that when instructed to "read the lowest line you can easily read" I nearly always read the 2nd lowest first (the sure thing) and then gave the last line a shot. Well, except without my glasses. Then I told him that there appeared to be black squiggles on a white background, but I couldn't be certain. "There may be an H there somewhere." After doing about 5 - 8 vision check things with my glasses back on he commented that my eyes were "corrected very very well" with my current glasses. That's pretty cool.
Fear struck me when the color-blindness test was in this gizmo too. I have always had trouble just with orange and yellow and just with the test with the circle with dots and you read the number inside. As a kid, I had that number memorized, but have since forgotten it... lol Anyhow, if you are counting on the little book with dots and numbers, be advised it may not be the manner you are tested. I just read off all the numbers and admitted I couldn't see one in the orange one. If I was lucky, that was one of those tester ones without a number... lolol
Anyhow, he didn't mention anything about it. . He told me at this point that he was required to send my application through to the FAA because of the Zoloft. Rats. My attitude plummeted. Easily losing more than 800 fps. Then weight and height. While he did those he quizzed me on the Zoloft and the episode of depression. I told him that I had been given the Zoloft after talking with my doctor about having difficulty being motivated to even get out of bed, was sleeping too much, lost weight, and was in a funk overall after having been downsized after only 2 years at a job I really liked, etc etc. Asked me if I had been put on Zoloft at first visit, I said yes. Scribble Scribble
Then into an exam room. Told me to strip to just lower underwear and put on the silly plastic 'gown', sit a certain way on the table thing, and then open the door a crack so that the assistant could first check I was situated right and call him in. Well this was fine except that the door was too far for anyone sitting on said table in any position to reach the doorknob. And the table was raised so high that I had to pull over a chair in the room to climb on and off. I am a little short (5' 3") but this was ridiculous! Little things a Dr. could do to make life a little less stressful for patients... try to follow your own instructions once in awhile.
He told me that it was up to me whether I wanted to include a prostate exam. Ummm... I am female... and I am sure my look of "say what?!" brought his head back to the present and he quickly corrected to "I mean breast exam...prostate and breast exams are not required by the FAA but if you would like..." Honestly, it worried me a bit to get the two confused... lol.. so I politely declined.
Anyhow, negotiated the little maze - put gown on, ripped fragile gown accidentally while putting it on, shuffled to door, opened it a crack, shuffled back to table, dragged chair to table, climbed on chair hoping the Dr. or assistant wouldn't immediately enter with a view of my hindquarters and dock me points for not following the impossible instructions... Wondered if it was some psychotic grad student's idea of an experiment... Waited awhile.
Awhile or two later, Assistant Person entered followed by AME. Usual exam stuff, checked my BP... demanded I relax and distracted me to bring BP down almost 30 points. Nervous? Stressed? Nah! And usually I have such low BP that Drs check it twice! After he corrected my focus, it was 120 over 80, whatever that means. Then shut off lights and checked my eyes with the little handheld light. Was momentarily startled when he double-checked my right eye because a "floater" in his own eye had moved across as he was examining mine. !!?!
Lights back on. Looked in my ears and my nose and my mouth. Told assistant all normal and that he'd only tell her any negatives from then on. Listened to my lungs - he proclaimed after 1st listen with required ice-cold steph that I had never smoked. I was severely tempted to reply, Oh, I only smoke with my left lung, not my right." but instead behaved and confirmed his point. Never have. Next listened to my heart. Then I had to lay down and he shoved hard on my middle, looking for kidneys or something I guess.
Then sit back up and check knee reflexes. In the past, Drs have made the mistake of straddling the leg they hit with the hammer, and I have VERY strong leg kick reflexes... I was relieved that the AME did not straddle my leg and create this risk. Normal high Vegas-style leg kicks.
Then, and this was odd, he grabs a tuning fork. I am thinking hearing test, but no - he taps it on the table then holds it on my ankle and asks what it feels like. "Ummmm... like cold metal vibrating on my ankle?" This was the correct answer. I find that odd. Do you get washed out of the program if it burns or pokes? Tells me to get dressed and then turn right outside the exam room and meet him in his office. He and assistant leave.
When I met him in his office he said that he was originally going to have me hand-carry the stuff directly to the flight surgeon that I guess is near where I work in Renton, but that he had called and they wanted it done online like normal. He said he was going to recommend that I be given my 3rd class, but that he needed to ask a few more questions. Grilled me about the Zoloft/ depression. What symptoms did I have, how did I feel then, how do I feel now, yatta yatta. I expected this and was somewhat prepared. Then grilled me about seasonal allergies. This I was not prepared for. He wanted to know exactly which months constitued "seasonal". Err... I had to sort of guess cuz' in reality I just take my Claritin when I can no longer breathe due to the allergies I have had all my life. i don't pay attention to when it is any longer - Claritin solves the whole problem so when I have the problem, take the Claritin, I can breathe, life continues. (I am a huge fan of Claritin.) So be prepared for a grilling on ANYTHING you check "yes" to on that list of "Have you ever..."
After the grilling, he told me that he would be my advocate and that by the end of tomorrow or so all of my info would be entered on the FAA's online submission thingie (which he clearly does not like, calling it "obviously built by the lowest bidder") and that I should wait about 2 weeks before calling the FAA if I have not heard anything more.
Gave him the cash - $75, and off I go with no piece of paper save a receipt. He did have me sign the little card that would have been my 3rd class had I not checked "yes" to the depression question, "in case they just give me the ok to go ahead and send it to you". How likely would that be? No hearing test was performed as far as I could tell.
In retrospect of just a couple hours, and again maintaining my disclaimer that I am really feeling negative about this whole thing, if I had it to do again, I would not check "yes" on the form. Yes, that would be a lie on a federal form. I did _not_ commit said lie. I am just saying that given the chance to start over, I would just not divulge the treatment for depression.
As bad a liar as I am, I think it would have been better for me to just not divulge. Many, many, many folks privately suggested I not go through this hassle and having to get a letter from my Dr and all that, and today I am of the opinion they were right. While I would never ever recommend that anyone in the same position as I am be dishonest, again - if I had it to start over right now, I would screw the honesty and check "no". My mileage is not an indication of future performance, and should not be attributed to anyone or anything else. YMMV. He asked me NO QUESTIONS about any of the items I had checked "no" for.
At least I felt incredibly well-prepared. It helped A TON to have pre-filled out the from (available from AOPA online). It probably saved me weeks or months to have my letter from my doctor all ready. We chose this AME b/c he was recommended by the FAA person in Seattle when we asked about what the FAA needed from my Dr. in the off-Zoloft letter, yet he also grilled me on why I had chosen him. Sure Tacoma is a bit of a drive from my home in Olympia, but nothing compared with my drive to work in Renton. He was not satisfied with this, however, and asked a few more times why I had chosen to see him. He made a lot of phone calls during my visit there - at least 4. I think 2 were actually to the FAA. Maybe the others had nothing to do with my visit and I am being Narcissistic... lol I tried hard to remember the advice of NEVER VOLUNTEER ANYTHING, which was very hard to do as under the worry and stress I felt the strongest urge to just babble. Kept my mouth shut for the most part.
Anyhow, I feel like quitting my lessons. At least until the deferral limbo is resolved. I feel like now I have a big scarlett "D" on my head (Depression), or maybe a "Z" for Zoloft and that I am now singled out to not be able to fly, or at least semi-untrustworthy.
Amazes me they don't screen for illegal drugs. Someday, dammit, there has got to be a reward for never having taken them. Don't drink, don't drug, but dammit - having had treatment for depression... well that's just unacceptable. Defer her to the FAA so she can just get lost or ignored. Yeah, yeah... I know. Call me Eeyore. Black cloud above my head and everything. It sucks to be me. lol
And who knows, maybe my dire expectations will be for nothing and the FAA will approve right away... of course, my impressions are that with the FAA 'right away' means this century. Dunno. Being too negative. Should shut the hell up. Apologies
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