EAA Chapter 25

A Community of Aviation Enthusiasts in the Twin Cities

Catch 22 (FAA Style)

Filed under: Member Stories — admin at 9:05 pm on Thursday, February 9, 2006

by S. Steve Adkins

from On Final February 2006

Acknowledgement: My thanks to Chris Cooper whose counsel enabled me to receive my Third Class Medical Certificate.

adkins-1.jpgFor a number of years, I had noticed increasing discomfort when breathing cold air. Simply… my lungs hurt. I bought a couple of devices to warm the air including a simple dust mask. More recently, I experienced symptoms similar to being out of breath when hauling brush up a steep hill. I wrote it off to old age until the symptoms got more severe. Another clue of health problems was that my iceboating buddies seemed to think pain from cold air is unusual. Note: the only place you can find warnings about sensitivity to cold air is on the web.

After reporting these symptoms to my doctor, I was immediately put on four medications and sent to the Minnesota Heart Clinic. Diagnosis: Angina. Shortly after that, I was given a stress test accompanied by a heart echogram. Soon I was on the operating table where the surgeon was installing two stents in arteries that were 95% blocked. It is a painless procedure. You go home within 24 hours.

Originally, I thought that I would have an entire winter to get my medical waiver*. But the new rules for the Sport Pilot License offered flying without a medical provided you do not have an official denial or revocation of medical eligibility on file with FAA. So I avoided seeing an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) letting the winter slip by. But during our club meetings early this year, it appeared that our club would be short on tow pilots so I decided to apply for a medical waiver. I studied the AOPA and EAA websites and learned a lot about successfully getting a medical waiver. To some extent, this effort was wasted and misleading. Based on what I learned, I prepared all the materials suggested and made an appointment with an AME near the MSP airport.

The medical given by the AME was identical to any other medical except at the end, I was not given a Third Class Medical Certificate (I was not yet denied). Instead, the AME doctor informed me that he would forward his exam results to Oklahoma and that I should wait to hear from them. The wait would be about 2 months. The FAA letter would contain a reference number and a list of required tests and reports. The materials I brought to the exam were not submitted.

I didn’t feel confident that this AME (not a pilot) was interested in helping with the medical waiver. On the advice of Chris Cooper, I contacted Dr. Schmidt, a pilot and AME located at Anoka County airport. After paying a $500 retainer, Dr. Schmidt helped me prepare a complete package which was sent Air Express to Oklahoma. You can find similar services on the web but at about triple the cost.

So much time had elapsed, that it was necessary to repeat the stress test and blood tests. I was able to convince the Minnesota Heart Clinic to move my scheduled stress test up two months (nice folks) saving me $300 to have Dr. Schmidt perform the test. It took 4 trips to the heart clinic and three trips to Dr. Schmidt before I had all the tests and proper paperwork. The FAA has a “catch 22″… it takes them 90 days to send you a reference number and instructions as to the “current” data they require; but, anything older than 90 days is not considered current!

The rules are simple:

1) Obtain the help of an interested FAA doctor who is also a licensed pilot… immediately;

2) Collect all requested materials (exactly what is requested…no more, no less) and send by Air Express once;

3) All tests must have been made within the previous 90 days to be considered current; and

4) Do not send extraneous letters asking why it’s taking them so long… be calm and just wait. According to Dr. Schmidt, that wait can vary from two weeks to four months.

Actual Time Line:….

A six-month recovery period shall elapse after your most recent heart event…

March 11 … Exam by AME… – AME sent exam results to Oklahoma

May 22 … Placed Dr Schmidt on retainer – writes column for Minnesota Flyer – helped Chris Cooper with his medical

June 10 … Letter received from FAA assigning me a case number and instructions – given 30 days to respond – Otherwise, automatic denial

July 13 … submitted new stress test, blood tests and numerous reports from doctor including original tracings

July 19 … received letter stating “denied” due to failure to respond within 30 days to earlier letter. (Our letters crossed in the mail or in the bureaucracy).

Sept 2 … Third Class Medical received – (letter dated Aug 30) With proper timing, the three month wait for Oklahoma to respond could have been overlapped with the 6-month recovery period.

Better Time Line… still need to honor six-month recovery period

November … Stents installed, start of FAA required 6-month recovery period

December… Exam by AME who understands the system and knows what is required – AME sends exam results to Oklahoma in order to establish case # – Meanwhile, AME works with you to prepare what he knows FAA will require

March… Letter from FAA with case number and instructions

May… Submit required material to Oklahoma

June-July… Receive Third Class Medical

*Medical waiver is an imprecise term. Actually one is granted an “Authorization for special Issuance of a medical certificate”. The medical certificate is on the standard FAA form without any words about a waiver or special issuance.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>