How important is your choice of Aviation Medical Examiner?
Very important, it seems.
I recently received two e-mails from a newspaper requesting information about a doctor who had lost his medical license, but continued to do FAA medicals. Apparently, the doctor lost his privileges at a couple of hospitals due to a head injury he received. He apparently lost some fine motor and sensory sensations to his hands and also had a personality change secondary to the injury to his head.
According to the FAA doctors in Oklahoma City, medicals done by this gentleman are not valid. Even though it is not the fault of the pilots he examined, all airmen who had their medicals from this doctor — or any other doctor practicing without a valid license — should immediately go to another AME to get another exam done.
For the FAA to accept a medical done by a doctor who has a physical or mental impairment — and no license — opens up huge liability for the FAA.
Lesson learned? Check your AME’s credentials before you begin your medical.
Another mistake that FAA doctors note is that pilots don’t realize there are two types of AMEs. There are the regular ones who do second and third class physicals and then there are senior AMEs, like myself, who do all three (first, second and third). The big difference is some pilots requiring first class medicals (such as for the airlines) fill out additional parts of the required form and the medicals are slightly different.
For instance, if you are above the age of 35, you need an EKG. The AME must have the proper equipment to send the EKG to the FAA over phone lines as it does not accept hard copies anymore. After age 40, EKGs are due annually to maintain a first class medical.
The problem is that some doctors who are not senior AMEs and not authorized to do first class medicals are conducting these exams. The FAA stance on this is that it will support the airman for fairness and scold the AME.
My experience with the FAA medical officials over the last 25 or more years has been the same — they do protect the airman. The FAA docs want to do what is best for pilots and get them back in the air as soon as possible.
Dr. Guy Baldwin is a family physician and Senior Aviation Medical Examiner in Tulsa, Okla. A member of the EAA Aeromedical Council, he has more than 4,000 hours. He owns a T-6 Harvard, a Cessna 210 and an Extra 300, which he flies in airshows and aerobatic contests.