So You Want To Fly Under Basic Med
Written by Robert Kittine – Although not comprehensive, here are some insights into the new BasicMed program and what you have to do to accomplish successful completion of the process. For those that are members of the AOPA, I would highly recommend – if you are going this route – to sign up for at least the Basic Medical Support Program the AOPA offers, or better yet the advanced program.
Being able to talk to an AOPA registered physician is a big help. For those that think, this is like LSA rules, you need to do some research. There are a number of components. You can find these listed on the AOPA web site as well as the FAA website, though it takes a little to find everything.
Don’t forget that you must have held at least a Third Class Medical or higher during the previous 10 years that was not denied or revoked. If not, your first time through the process you will have to pass a FAA Medical that is Third Class or higher.
Included is the requirement to review those conditions that automatically or at least partially eliminate you from using BasicMed. This also includes a list of Medications, some of which also disqualify an applicant, which you actually are, rather than just holding a valid driver’s license and not KNOWINGLY having any disqualifying conditions. As with the regulations for LSA, there is a requirement of self disqualification for a number or conditions or knowledge that you could not pass a basic FAA physical. All, as per the FARs requiring self-grounding.
Next you need to download all the documents, which include about 9 pages. You, may need more than one set, depending on how you are going to handle the actual doctor or doctors which you are going to use.
There is an actual Registration Process, though it is not stated as such. You need to take the online self evaluation course and at the end you need to have the License Number and State of Registration for the Physician(s) that will be providing the medical exam and signing the check list. So, have at least one doctor’s license ready and it should be at least one of the ones that sign off on the checklist.
Certificate of completion of the Self Evaluation Course provides you with proof of registration and if you take it through the AOPA (you do NOT need to be a member to do this) they will automatically notify you by E-mail when it comes time to retake it to continue qualification. All of this in hand, now back to your doctor(s).
The reason I have been showing “doctor(s)” as possibly plural is that when your primary care physician looks at the check list, they may feel they cannot perform all of the exams required. For my BasicMed, I used three Physicians, One for my general physical condition, one for my cardiac exam areas and one for vision. Why not one? When you look at the check list, those of us who are used to taking FAA First Class Medicals, will see, with the exception of the need for an EKG every other 6 month cycle, this physical is MORE intense than any 1st Class FAA one that I have taken and is more specific about areas like vision, hearing etc., which some doctors may not have the required equipment to conduct. There is a guide for your doctors to read regarding the requirements also.
You also have to fill out and have available a copy electronically or printed, of the FAA Medical Application Form, just like you have used in the past. There are some areas that you no longer need to fill out and declare, but all the other stuff, like traffic violations etc. are asked. The difference here is that you do NOT have to turn these in, but must again, make them available if asked for them by a valid authority.
According to the AOPA and the FAA, both of whom I contacted, the best thing is to just carry a copy of the Signature Page of the Check List(s) — I have three, one filled out for the appropriate exam areas and signed by that doctor and a copy of my Certificate of Completion of the Self Evaluation.
So with a more stringent exam and all the paperwork, what is the hype of the “great advantage” of BasicMed? Surprisingly there are some serious advantages:
- You can use the same doctor(s) that you normally use, that may be covered by your insurance and may already have recently done a number of the exam items on the check list.
- You only have to have the exam once every 4 years.
- Your doctor(s) can sign off even with some conditions that would have normally required further review and testing from the FAA. And a possible waiver, needing to be renewed every year. Here you really need to review those conditions that do not allow this.
Based on some of the Designated Medical Examiners I have used in the past years for FAA Medicals, using BasicMed, really provides you with a thorough, worthwhile physical exam, which after having all the prior medical issues I have had, is -in my opinion- a good thing.
One thing to keep in mind. Your Doctor(s) have to provide their license number and contact information and I have already heard from pilot friends of mine that their doctors were not willing to sign off on these forms because of liability issues. Even when your doctor is your friend, in my experience, they want to make sure that they are not signing on something that might come back to bite them.
As a last note, since you cannot fly commercially under BasicMed (you could instruct as you are being paid to teach and not to fly as clarified by the FAA) and cannot fly equipment with more than 6 seats along with other rules, if you can pass a First Or Second Class FAA Medical, in my opinion, it is easier, albeit more costly to take the FAA medical exam.
In my case, I went the BasicMed route to allow me to fly aircraft I have not been flying as PIC for the past few years and because my specialist physicians could legally sign me off on their own examination, where for the exact same conditions, if I had gone the FAA Medical Route, I would have had to have Review by the FAA Surgeon General and the issuance of a waiver needing renewal ever 12 months. The doctor I talked to through the AOPA suggested that I go this route, not because I have any disqualifying conditions, but because he was concerned how the FAA would consider more than one condition, even when all of them were acceptable on their own.
As an example, I am a cancer survivor and the type of cancer I had is not on the disqualifying list. It does however require a set of tests. The FAA will only accept a full Body MRI set (two scans of three body areas) as the main test for the waiver, but my insurance company will not pay it as they do not believe it is the best test for this. I would therefore have to pay the full cost, which is about $5,000 for the two different MRIs. My oncologist thinks it is stupid, as I have an annual CT Scan with and without Contrast and a PET Scan if anything at all shows in the CT Scans, which he believes are much better tests and are paid 100% by my insurance and with my physician sign off, I am only required to go through this again in 4 years unless I develop some new symptom, rather than go through the waiver renewal process every year. For my pacemaker, the only requirement under BasicMed was that for 2 months after installation, I could not fly alone until my cardiologist signed off that it and I where both working correctly.
So if you are going this route, make sure you read up on it first. The three insurance companies I am covered by for flying insurance all wanted copies of the Certificate Of Self Evaluation Completion and my Physician Signature sheets as did the three places where I am current to rent aircraft. But the good news is that they accepted BasicMed in leu of a FAA Flight Medical as did one place that I rent aircraft at.
P.S. – If you have the Premium AOPA Medical Assist Coverage, a medical professional authorized by the AOPA will walk your through this all over the phone.
Robert Kittine holds Commercial Pilot, SEL, MEL and SES with IR/A as well as a CFI, CFII and MEI. He is also a Glider. With currently just under 9,700 hours he held four type ratings at one time. Robert took his first ride in an Aeronca Champ when he was 11 and took his first dual instruction in a brand new Piper Colt at the age of 13. Having owned more than two dozen airplanes since 1968, he currently partners in several aircraft and also owns a Cessna 340A. These days he sells real estate in Manhattan (new York City) and the Hamptons for the Corcoran Group and has residences in both places.