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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trust and your A.M.E.

"Off the Record Q & A with a Local A.M.E."

DR. Larry

Dr. Larry,

One of the pilots’ greatest concerns is the loss of their medical by their FAA physician finding something that will disqualify them. Thus the pilots don’t openly discuss issues, or potential concerns with their AME.

Can you please explain the requirement, if any, that you must report something that a pilot brings to your attention outside the actual FAA exam?

For example—I have just received my First Class physical from you. Then one month later I come to you with concerns of high blood pressure. I come to you as my physician, not my AME. Are you required by some “FAA law” to report my high blood pressure and pull my medical? Or, do you have the flexibility to work with me so in six months I will be able to pass the next exam?

Is there anything that a pilot may bring to you that you will have to ground them?


Many FAA Medical Examiners (AMEs) wear two hats. One hat is worn while functioning as a contracted designee for the FAA. The other hat is worn as a primary care physician (PCP).

As a pilot’s PCP, the physician has no obligation to report any particular health issue. The responsibility and liability for reporting to the FAA is strictly upon the shoulders of the airman.

One exception could be if the physician became aware of an illegal activity threatening safety.

A potential conflict can arise if a general physical and FAA exam are performed at the same time since withholding significant information at that time would place the examiner’s designation in jeopardy. Therefore, one could theorize it may be best to keep the two exams separate.

My basic premise is this: if something is serious enough to raise the eyebrows of the FAA and a pilot does not report it, they are putting themselves in a liability position, let alone compromising their health. Utilizing your AME to help navigate the mine fields can help minimize collateral damage, and will most likely surprise you as to the liberality of the FAA.

Is it necessary to have two different doctors?

The answer is no if:

  1. The pilot is willing to work through health issues, which come up during the wellness exam.
  2. The pilot is working with an AME/PCP they trust and who understands the system.

The FAA encourages AMEs to be user friendly, and to assist pilots when necessary even when the certification process is not straight forward. However, as in any business, some examiners are more helpful than others. Don’t be afraid to ask your AME which side of the fence they are on. Trust is a key part of any relationship, and having that trust with an AME goes a long way to having your AME be your advocate when issues do arise, as they surely will.

To your good health,

Dr. Larry

Advanced Senior AME

Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention

Family and Sports Medicine

P.S. For those of you who like me, remember how the FAA was 20 plus years ago, (obstructive, tiresome, etc.), it’s a different, friendlier attitude now, focused on keeping and returning pilots to flying status as quickly as possible, in the safest way possible.

Dr. Larry will be with us every Wednesday answering all those questions you were afraid to ask. For more on Dr. Larry click HERE

For all the pilots out there, I'm curious... is this what you thought the A.M.E. was all about?

Thank you Dr. Larry for enlightening all of us!

Enjoy the Journey.

~ Karlene


  1. What a great weekly feature, Karlene. So important to have medical questions answered by someone you trust!

  2. It's good to no it isn't necessary to have two different doctors! Thank you Dr. Larry for helping out pilots everywhere (especially our friend Karlene). :)


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