How to gain certification following a disqualifying medical condition
Much of the work of an aviation medicine specialist is concerned with assessing whether a pilot or air traffic controller can either take up or return to flying or controlling after an illness. This means assessing the risk of that pilot or controller suffering a sudden or subtle incapacitation which could jeopardise flight safety. The specialist must therefore have a thorough knowledge of the progress and outcome of disease, and also knowledge of the range of working (and recreational) environments that pilots and controllers inhabit.
The basic medical “rules” which determine whether a pilot is fit are contained in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 1. These, however, are very high-level standards. Most aviation regulatory authorities have developed their own more detailed requirements and the UK has joined a Europe-wide group of aviation authorities, called the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) to produce a publication called the Joint Aviation Requirements – Flight Crew Licensing 3 (Medical) or JAR-FCL 3.
JAR-FCL 3 is split into two parts. Section 1 contains mandatory Requirements and then Appendices to these requirements. The requirements are high level like ICAO Annex 1, but the Appendices go into considerably more detail about the levels of fitness appropriate for pilots. The result of this is a set of rules that must be followed by the European countries which have implemented the requirements.
The Section 1 requirements and appendices may have been superseded by more up-to-date regulation which is promulgated by devices such as a Long-term Exemption. Details of these exemptions will be found on this website. Section 2 of JAR-FCL 3 is advisory only. It expands on the requirements/appendices and contains acceptable means of compliance with them.
The European Class 3 medical requirements for Air Traffic Controllers can be found on the Eurocontrol website.
If a certificate holder becomes aware of a decrease in their medical fitness, which may render them unable to exercise the privileges of their licence, they must inform the CAA Medical Department. Once the Medical Department has been advised that a medical certificate holder is unfit due to illness, injury or pregnancy, a standard letter is issued advising them that they are ‘temporarily unfit’. This letter will explain in general terms the procedure for recertification.
The UK CAA Medical Department recognises that additional guidance material is sometimes required and it can be difficult for applicants and their doctors to interpret the requirements in a particular condition. This site contains explanatory notes for a set of common medical conditions which might affect pilots and air traffic controllers and protocols or algorithms with guidance on the type of tests and reports that may be required in particular circumstances.