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The FAA Is Allowing You To Fly With An Expired Medical Certificate

Boldmethod

Over the past few weeks, we've seen a lot of changes happen in the aviation world. We've broken down FAA policy changes explaining your medical certificate and its expiration date.

Review: Medical Certificate Regulations

All medical certificates are valid for 60 months, unless you're 40 or older the day you get it (then it's 24 months). The difference of valid times, according to FAR 61.23, depends on what type of operation you use your medical for.

For example, as a commercial pilot, your privileges with a Class 2 medical are valid for 12 months. Unless you get a new Class 2 medical, you can't continue acting as a commercial pilot, but you could continue using that same medical certificate for Class 3 privileges for the remainder of your certificate's valid time.

These requirements are listed under 14 CFR part 67. To receive a new medical certificate, a person must submit to a medical examination given by an aviation medical examiner. Regardless of whatever day a medical certificate is issued, all medical certificates expire at the end of the last day of the month of expiration.

Is Your Medical Certificate Expiring Soon?

The FAA will not take legal enforcement action (for medical certificate noncompliance) against any person serving as a required pilot flight crewmember or flight engineer if their medical expires between March 31st and June 30th, 2020.

Keep in mind, you will be flying with an expired medical certificate. This policy does not grant your medical certificate a date "extension." Rather, the FAA simply won't pursue legal action if you meet the criteria above.

This does not apply to pilots and flight engineers who "lacked an unexpired medical certificate as of March 31, 2020." That statement sounds a bit confusing, but it means that if your medical expired prior to March 2020, you don't qualify under this rule.

Additionally, the FAA clarifies that this new policy does not apply beyond June 30th, 2020. Until a new policy is issued, after June 30th, you must fly with a non-expired medical certificate.

New Exemption: International Flights (Only Until May 31st)

If you read the policy document from the FAA, issued March 26th, you'll notice that it only contains provisions for pilots flying within the United States. More specifically, it reads, "This policy applies only to holders of an FAA-issued medical certificate serving as a required pilot flight crewmember or flight engineer within the United States. It does not apply to holders of an FAA-issued medical certificate serving as a required pilot flight crewmember or flight engineer outside the United States."

On March 31st, an FAA press-release announced the following additional exemption, reversing the language written into the original policy:

The FAA is granting an exemption that extends until June 30, 2020, the duration of medical certificates for certain pilots and flight engineers who conduct scheduled and on-demand operations outside the United States if those medical certificates expire between March 31, 2020, and May 31, 2020.

As you can see, this exemption is the same, but with a slightly modified date range. If you're a pilot operating internationally, you only have until May 31st to fly with your expired medical certificate until the FAA announces further guidance.

American Airlines

Medical Deficiencies DO NOT Apply

According to the FAA, "the relief provided in this notice does not extend to the requirements of 14 CFR 61.53 and 63.19 regarding prohibition on operations during medical deficiency." No person may act as a required pilot flight crewmember while that person:

  • Knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation.
  • Is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person being unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation.

Plus, the FAA says "this notice creates no individual rights of action and establishes no precedent for future determinations."

Corey Komarec

Why The FAA Changed Its Policy

Long story short, updating FAA medical certificates isn't a time-critical task. Many pilots around the country cannot make medical certificate appointments right now because the doctors are not available, or are not taking on clients. Plus, physically visiting a healthcare provider right now isn't a good idea for many people, unless completely necessary. Here's what the FAA said about why they've changed the policy:

It is not in the public interest at this time to maintain the requirement of an FAA medical examination, which is a nonemergency medical service, in order for pilots and flight engineers with expiring medical certificates to obtain new medical certificates. This is because of the burden that COVID-19 places on the U.S. healthcare system, and because these aviation medical examinations increase the risk of transmission of the virus through personal contact between the physician and the applicant for an airman medical certificate.

What's Coming Soon...

According to AOPA, "In times of crisis, an SFAR (special federal aviation regulation) is typically used as a temporary rule to address a situation listed at the beginning of the most relevant existing regulation... For the past several weeks, AOPA and industry groups have worked tirelessly with the FAA to find solutions for expiring certifications, currency, and training requirements... AOPA is very pleased and supportive of the FAA in using an SFAR to provide the regulatory flexibility for the general aviation community to continue its well-demonstrated benefits to the public."

So, expect for there to be more changes coming soon and possibly more relief for pilots facing certificate expiration, currency loss, and additional training requirements.

Does this FAA notice accomplish enough to keep you in the air? Share your comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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