Is it time to fire your AME?

At the first sign of a medical condition, does your AME defer your medical to Oklahoma City? If he does, you probably want to find another Aviation Medical Examiner. That’s the advice of Dr. Fred Tilton, the Federal Air Surgeon.

“If your AME is risk averse, find another AME,” he said. “They should do the right thing. They shouldn’t defer everything — that’s not serving you the way you should be served.”

Of course, there are conditions that must be deferred to Oklahoma City for a special issuance. But there are five conditions where an AME can give you a special issuance without OKC’s approval, provided you have the proper information and documentation from your general physician. Those conditions are: High blood pressure; diet-controlled diabetes; a kidney stone; asthma; and a peptic ulcer that’s been resolved.

But how do you find an AME who is willing to give you the stamp of approval?

Find one who is a pilot, advises Dr. Gary Crump, director of medical certification for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “Talk to local pilots so you can find an AME who will be an advocate and work for you,” he said.

Ask the AME how many medicals he or she does a year. Some do only 15 or 20, which means they aren’t familiar with the special issuance process, notes Dr. Jack Hastings, an AME who serves on the Experimental Aircraft Association‘s Aeromedical Council. “They aren’t up on the latest, so they have a fear,” he noted.

Find an AME who is willing to pick up the phone and call OKC. Often, a pilot’s medical can get approved that way, saving a lot of time and trouble, FAA officials note.

And those same officials want to know if your doctor is not doing the right thing by pilots.

“We have been authorized to increase our staff to look at the quality of AMEs,” Tilton noted. “We need to do a better job of assessing AMEs. It helps if pilots who have a bad experience let us know. We do de-designate AMEs. We don’t want those guys out there.”

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