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Medical and Degree Questions


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I guess the place to start with this career is getting the FAA medical card?

How and where do I go about this? Does it need to be an FAA affiliated Doctor, or do you just go to your GP and get a special physical?

The only thing I'm concerned about medically is that I've had vertigo episodes before. It hasn't occured in almost 10 years now, but I did get nauseous on my first helicopter ride (extremely windy day and me lurching the chopper around like crazy, too, I hope it most of it).


So getting the medical - is it a big questionnaire and if I check "yes" to "have you ever had vertigo," am I basically screwed?


Also, I have no college degree. I know it's not necessary which is one of the reasons I was drawn to this as a career change, but I wonder if the industry is moving more and more in this direction? Still pretty wide open for someone without a degree?



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If you never had a doctor visit where he wrote down vertigo episodes them you have never had it and I would never mention it


The doc is an aviation medical examiner. Search the web for near you. Not your normal doc physical.


You should never answer yes to a question unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor. Don't self diagnose


Things in the heli world are not changing. If you have a degree more power to you. If you don't. It won't matter if all you want to do is wiggle the sticks.

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These guys pretty much covered it. Go to an AME, pay a small fee, and get it done. As mentioned, if there's no paperwork showing it, don't mention it. You only need a 3rd Class medical to start flying but it's a good idea to get a 1st Class or 2nd Class just to ensure you are able to acquire one.


I have color-vision issues so I had to jump through a bunch of hoops with the FAA. However, I now have a Letter of Evidence from them saying I'm essentially good for life, which accompanies my 1st Class Medical so I figure that should never be an issue.

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Get with your regular doctor and discuss the vertigo issue. Your Dr can get you an answer before you go for a medical. Once you get your FAA medical its game day and there is no going back. I always go get a physical with my regular doctor about 3 months before my FAA medical is due. That way if something comes up, I have time to deal with it if possible. Fortunately I have never had an issue.


On the degree. If you want to be a pilot, the bare basic requirements is to have a pilots license. Work on that first, get through the CFI stuff, get on to an entry level gig (none of those require degrees) Once you get an idea of where you want to go in your flying career then you can decide if a degree is needed for a particular path. The only time I can see a degree being needed would be if you want to start getting into management. I always thought something HR related would be good. If you worked for a larger company, you may have some type of fall back career with the same company should you end up older in your career with health issues or something.

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Not to hijack, but I'm horrible with filling out medical documents in general; never know what to put. If I remember correctly, the faa form asks if you've been to see a doctor during a certain time period. If someone thought they had vertigo, but the doctor dismissed it, is that something you should disclose? I would imagine there are a lot of things people self diagnose, but when they go to see a doctor and they are deemed fine, then what? Nobody wants to give an AME any ammo, but you don't want to cheat the system either :ph34r:


Edit: I just looked it up and it asks for the name of any doctors you've visited in the last 3 years and what the reason was.

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Not just doctors - "health professionals." What the F is a "health professional??"


A pilot I know (whom some of you on this board also know) went through a bad divorce. It weighed heavily on this pilot's emotional state. This pilot happens to maintain a blog. This pilot blogged extensively about the divorce, and mentioned that there was a visit to a psychotherapist for the depression/anxiety/whatever. I emailed this pilot and gently suggested that the wording of that paragraph be removed. As the rules stand, reporting such a visit to a therapist ("health professional") on your medical application would be required.


The FAA takes a dim view of depression. DIM VIEW. There is at least one case that I know of in which the medical cert of a pilot was revoked when he casually revealed to a FSDO inspector that he "got depressed" every day he flew over the site of the auto accident in which his son was killed. Hey, who wouldn't get depressed over such a thing?! How could you not?


So reporting that you were not only depressed but visited a therapist for it could be a deal-killer at your next medical. ...Unless the FAA has relaxed their standards when it comes to pilots with emotional problems. Which I kind of doubt. The FAA wants to be sure you're not gonna get all depressed and decide to kill yourself (and your passengers) while you're flying the plane.


The ironic thing is that for many of us, flying is perfect therapy for the things that trouble us on the ground. I know it is for me. When a pilot friend was killed in a bad accident two seasons ago up in Washington, all I wanted to do was get back in the air so I wouldn't have to think about it. I didn't need to go whining like a girl in a sundress and big floppy hat to a therapist and lay on her couch blathering on and on about my emotions and "issues" or things that make me sad, awwww. I do like most guys do: I bury those things deep, where they ought to be. Eventually, I'll go get good and drunk and maybe take a long motorcycle ride to make me feel better. Sometimes I'll do both at the same time!


In my opinion, the pilot/blogger did not remove enough of the description of the divorce-induced depression therapy. It's still up as far as I know. And it troubles me.


I too have a blog. I know that some FAA guys read it - I'm surprised my own medical hasn't been revoked by now! If the FAA reads the blog of this "other" pilot (I swear it is not me), it could cause trouble if it is not reported on the medical app. If it *is* reported, it might cause trouble on the medical app. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, you know? My advice? You are not required to incriminate yourself in this country. Don't tell the FAA any more than they absolutely need to know.

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Doctors who can issue your medical certificate are known as AME's (Aviation Medical Examiners). You can find one online at the FAA website athttp://www.faa.gov/pilots/amelocator/, or you can ask around at your local airport. You're usually better asking other pilots who they use; some medical examiners are quite lenient, others are ones that aren't worth the risk if you ever intend to fly for a living.


When I got my first medical I was sixteen. The examiner didn't want a snot nosed kid flying, and tried to fail me right off the bat. I'm an asthmatic, and I had to appeal my case all the way to Oklahoma City (FAA aeromedical headquarters) to ensure I could fly. He tried to give me a glaucoma test, too, and that's not something that's required. Back then it involved putting chemicals in the eyes, and then pushing on the eye with a special cup. I don't do well with anything near my eye, and he tried to fail me on that. He asked what I'd do if on an approach and something flew up in my eye. I told him I'd go around. He didn't like that either.


You can get buy with a third class medical certificate, but if you're thinking of flying for a living you'll need a second or first class. I always get a first class; it's still good as long as the others, but it's necessary for some of the work I do.


You will do fine with a second or third class medical.


Don't put anything down on the medical form that you don't have as part of your diagnosed history. If you've had headaches (who hasn't?), don't list them on the form. The FAA will want a battery of tests. The form will ask about frequent headaches or dizziness. This isn't about the occasional tylenol moment. If you're prone to frequent debilitating headaches that could pose a safety hazard, the question is for you. Otherwise, don't hang yourself out to dry.


Likewise, have you ever actually been determined to "have vertigo," or did you simply not feel well when flying once or twice? You'll learn that people become accustomed to flying. It's not uncommon to feel a little off, or even sick, and a lot of successful pilots have become airsick, especially in their early days. It's not a big deal, generally. When you get accustomed to flying and your body adjusts to the new sensations, and you no longer feel trepidation because you begin to understand what's keeping you up and how the aircraft works...those sensations of dizziness or "vertigo" often go away.


It's very common for people doing aerobatics; one develops a tolerance to them. After not doing them for a time, that tolerance is substantially reduced. Do them again, and one gets accustomed to the changes quickly. What you've got is really likely nothing more than what many people get on circus rides. I feel a little ill on some carnival rides, but not in an aircraft.


Copping to that on a medical, especially before you've had a chance to see what it's all about, isn't a good idea.


Even if you get a medical, you're still medically disqualified any time you don't meet the standards or aren't medically safe. If you've got a headcold, you shouldn't be flying, even though you've got a fresh medical certificate in your pocket. Much of flying and medical fitness is on the honor system, and it's part of your judgement. Likewise, if you do get a medical and find over time that flying isn't for you because of persistent nausea when flying, your medical is invalid anyway...so let your experience be a guide, rather than shooting yourself in the foot by stating on your medical application that you have "vertigo."


There's nothing on the form that asks that question, but be alert to other questions such as frequent fainting or dizzy spells, or nausea. You got a little airsick once or twice; don't check the box or state that on the medical. Just take the medical, let the doctor find what's wrong with you, be honest but don't volunteer (especially if you haven't been diagnosed), and pay your money. You'll walk out with a medical certificate in hand, and then it's time to go fly.

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I too have a blog. I know that some FAA guys read it - I'm surprised my own medical hasn't been revoked by now! If the FAA reads the blog of this "other" pilot (I swear it is not me), it could cause trouble if it is not reported on the medical app. If it *is* reported, it might cause trouble on the medical app. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, you know? My advice? You are not required to incriminate yourself in this country. Don't tell the FAA any more than they absolutely need to know.


Exactly what I was thinking. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If someone is a hypochondriac and visiting a health professional every now and then when it's probably not necessary, it's going to cause extra scrutiny from the AME. Heck if someone just goes in for preventative care it might look bad. I wonder what the right action is.

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You can take a page from my book, as I have a lot of experience with this subject already.


I am not going to tell you what to do or not do, or what to disclose or not to disclose, but keep in mind that anything you check yes to on your medical form can have long lasting effects on your certification.


Some medical histories (like my own) can create big red flags for the FAA. I was denied my initial application for medical certification and after a lot of time, effort, and money, was able to appeal the decision and now have a special issuance certification at six month intervals for the next three years. It's all about liability for them - if you are getting vertigo when you fly, that seems like quite a liability to me. Not something you want to lie about as it could risk your life and potentially the lives of any future passengers if you got into a bad situation at altitude.


Basically screwed? Who's to say....they might request further testing or grant you a similar special issuance but my situation is far different. You would have to check the FARs to see what sort of regulations are in place for your condition, assuming it is a medical condition and not just an isolated incident. Just keep in mind that once it's on paper, it's on paper.


In retrospect, should I have "checked the box"? The chances of the FAA ever finding out if I had withheld information are slim to none, but I felt that honesty was my ally and despite the setbacks I had to go through, it's now on the table and no longer a road block. Your AME should have some experience and knowledge on your particular query, much more so than I do at least.


As for getting a college degree? Credentials never hurt anyone, and you certainly don't lose anything by getting an education, but this isn't exactly an industry where a BA is going to get you the job over the next guy. I graduate in June with a Bachelor's in Sociology, and as rewarding as it's been, I doubt it will ever help me land a job flying helicopters. With that said, I also doubt it will ever prevent me from getting one.

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