What Are The Three Types Of Aviation Medicals? (3 Certificates)

3rdClass Medical and student pilot certificate
Third Class Medical and Student Pilot Certificate

Most people realize that pilots need to be healthy to do their jobs, and I am sure that some may wonder as well, What Are The Three Types Of Aviation Medical Certificates?

In this article, we will look at each of the classes of medical certificates and explain their individual purposes.

What Are The Three Types Of Aviation Medicals?

The First-class medical for the airline (ATP) and commercial pilots, Second class for commercial pilots, and Third class for student and private pilots.

1. The First Class Medical

This is the most important type of medical certificate if you aspire to be an airline pilot.

If this is your goal then heed the advice and apply for this certificate to assure that you can pass. You must possess near-perfect health.

It is well-advised to have a very intense medical evaluation before applying for your aviation medical.

It is easier to discover any anomalies in your health before the FAA flight physical because a denied FAA medical is very hard to overturn. The FAA is a formidable force.

The first-class medical will consist of an intense evaluation of your overall health including these items:

A. Vision. Measurement of eyesight and vision and a test for color blindness, blind spots, peripheral vision, and any other eyesight issues that would impair your normal duties

B. Hearing. An audiogram will be used to evaluate hearing loss if any, and a check of sinuses and a balance test.

C.  Heart. An ECG (Electrocardiogram) will be administered to evaluate heart health. This will consist of resting and exercise ECG.

This is a test that could surprise you and discovers a hidden problem.

D. Blood samples. Both for cholesterol levels and hemoglobin to assure your blood can carry enough oxygen throughout the body.

Passing out at the controls is not a good idea. Blood pressure, below 155/95.

E. Urine sample. To test for blood and sugar levels in the event of diabetes. Possible drug screen.

F. General health. An overall evaluation, listening to the heart and lungs, and a check of reflexes.

You will be asked about your previous medical issues like surgeries and family health history.

A first-class medical is valid for 12 months for pilots under 40 and every 6 months after age 40.

G. Coming to You Soon NEUROLOGICAL.

Think of it as the  (Honest, I’m not Crazy Test).

A First-class medical in Europe just became a bit tougher to get when in 2019 a psychological test was implemented.

This test is administered after your AME gives you your flight physical.

This test takes about 3 hours of your time to complete and consists of a number of written self-assessment topics.

This is followed by a conversation with a psychologist about you and your family’s medical and mental health.

This will be focused on your background your possible medical history, and your life situation.

You are then referred back to your flight surgeon for the results. These could be available after one week or up to eight weeks for the final results interview.

It sounds like a scheduling nightmare!

The first class is good for one year for pilots under 40 and every six months over 40.

2. The Second Class Medical

The second class FAA physical will be as intense as the first with few exceptions since this class consists of pilots flying for hire other than the airlines.

The standards are not as intense as a first-class but it will be a thorough exam consisting of each area with the exception of the ECG.

The second class is good for commercial privileges for 12 months.

3. The Third Class Medical

The third class medical is a far less intense certificate to acquire as it is really just a normal physical exam by your Aviation Medical Examiner. You can fly if you are healthy.

It does still require heart and lung function, vision, hearing, and urinalysis tests.

This physical is for the student pilot, the private pilot, and the recreational pilot.

This certificate is valid for 5 years for pilots under 40 and 24 months for pilots over 40 years of age.

4. BasicMed

There is an alternative to a medical certificate for pilots that was introduced in 2017 that gives a pilot the right to fly without a medical certificate.

The BasicMed requires a physical from a state-licensed physician and the completion of an online education course every two years.

The physical from your Doctor must be completed every four years.

Other stipulations are no more than six passengers and aircraft under 6000 lbs gross weight. But there are no stipulations on a type rated or experimental aircraft.


The aviation medical exam is a stressful encounter for any pilot.

For obvious reasons, the passage of the first and second-class physicals is imperative because your career is at stake.

But it is just as strenuous for every pilot because it is a loss of the freedom to venture into the sky much less one’s livelihood.

I want to emphasize once again the necessity of a professional opinion before taking the actual flight physical.

It is far easier to know of any possible areas of denial and possible resolution than fighting with the FAA over a failed medical.

Remember that there are waivers that can be acquired in certain circumstances. Make yourself familiar with regulations because knowing the rules might just be your lifeline.

Read the Code of Federal Regulations. Start with 14 CFR 61.23 here.

Do seriously consider the possible change in the first-class medical requiring a psychological screening. It’s likely to come. Times do change.

Related: Are There Medical Reasons To Deny A Pilot License? ( 5 Healthy Thoughts)



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