From Our Partners at Wingman Med
Once upon a time, the world used paper. Applying for a FAA medical certificate, meant filling out FAA form 8500-8 and presenting it to your AME at your flight physical. While the use of that paper form has fallen by the wayside,14 CFR part 68.7 still mandates its use.
MedXPress is the FAA’s online medical certificate application system. The output is still a PDF version of the 8500-8 (which you should keep), but MedXPress has eliminated the use of physical paper in the application process.
Except for printing your medical certificate, AMEs do not use paper either. Instead of requiring a physical copy of your application, your AME will need your MedXPress confirmation number. You will get that after successfully submitting your application online.
Your AME will use that confirmation number to import your medical certificate application into the Aerospace Medical Certification System (AMCS). AMCS allows AMEs to electronically complete their virtual portion of the 8500-8 and (hopefully) print your medical certificate.
Each Section has a Purpose
The FAA’s intended goal with MedXPress is to get as much medical information about you as possible. The AME wants to make an informed decision about your health as it relates to flying.
MedXPress starts by asking some basic demographic questions. The next section asks what medications you take. Those are relatively straightforward. Most questions pilots have about the medical certificate application process concern the next section, about medical conditions.
That section is straightforward as well. Most questions that come up have to do with closing the gap between what pilots want it to say and what it actually says very clearly.
At the top of the “Medical History” section, the FAA asks, “Have you ever in your life been diagnosed with, had, or do you presently have any of the following?” They even ask the question in all caps to add emphasis.
25 specific questions follow, but question 18x deserves special mention. It asks about “Other illness, disability, or surgery.” Taken together with the introductory statement above, it should be obvious that the FAA asking, “Have you ever in your life had…[any] illness, disability, or surgery.”
That is not all. The section also has several general questions about other types of medically significant events including:
- discharge from the military for medical reasons
- rejection for military service
- rejection for life or health insurance
- receipt of medical disability benefits
Questions about driving history, drug and alcohol- related arrests, and criminal history follow. Finally, you will round out your application by listing each medical visit you have attended in the preceding three years and authorizing the FAA to obtain your driving record from the National Driver Register.
Tell a Consistent Story
The FAA could simply say, “please tell us about your medical history and how you are doing,” but that wouldn’t get them much information. People tend to forget certain things. By asking for details on several different, specific items, they are more likely to jog the memory of the pilot filling out the form.
When asked about their medical history, many patients of ours neglect to mention hypertension, but they do remember they take a pill every day. Asking about medical history and current medications is more likely to get the full story. The FAA wants the full story. Your goal should be to tell a consistent one.
Here are some examples:
- If you list Allegra and Flonase as medications, then you should also mark “yes” to 18e (Hay fever or allergy). Zyrtec, by the way, is disqualifying for regular use.
- If you mark “no” to all of the medical condition questions, but then mark “yes” to a medical rejection or disability benefits, it doesn’t add up.
- If you mark “no” to 18g (heart or vascular trouble), but have had five trips to the cardiologist in the last six months, your AME will have questions.
The AME Can Update Your Answers
Inconsistency in your answers should spark questions from your AME. If everything ends up meeting the FAA requirements, then you can still get your medical. Your AME can update your answers before submitting everything to the FAA, but it is in your best interest to make their job easy.
Wingman Med Advice
By ensuring you tell a clear and consistent story on your MedXPress application, you can expect a smoother process with your AME. Here are some tips:
- You should have a corresponding medical condition for every medication you take and disability you have.
- If there isn’t a specific question about your medical condition, then list it under “other illness, disability, or surgery.” Along these lines, you should never think, “they didn’t ask about sleep apnea” because everything not specifically asked goes here.
- Provide a brief statement about each medical condition. As a rule of thumb, if you need more than a sentence, you should bring a current detailed clinical progress note from your treating physician that explains more.
- List a reason for all visits to health care professionals.
- “Previously reported, no change” may not help your current AME evaluate your condition (AMEs don’t have access to your past exams)— use the above guidelines and then add “previously reported, no change.”
- Retain copies of the generated 8500-8 for future reference, as this makes it much easier to remember what you wrote last time.
Finally, if you decide that an application you have submitted needs major rework, there is a solution. Before your AME imports your exam to AMCS, MedXPress applications will be deleted after 60 days of inactivity. If you want to toss your virtual application in the virtual trash can, just wait 60 days, and it will age out.
Once you share your confirmation number with an AME, the FAA will see it, so make sure your application says what you want it to say before you schedule your appointment.
If you would like to do a trial run at MedXPress, we have our own MedXPress Simulator. If you want more personalized advice, you can also schedule a free consultation by clicking on the “Free Consult” button that can be found on our website.