PPL Students

An outline of the medical system for pilots

Congratulations! If you are reading this it is probably because you are nearing your first solo flight and have discovered that you need a medical before this is possible. This page offers an outline of the aviation medical system to allow the full privileges of the PPL and and for the CPL/ATPL licences.

Most students begin with a Class 2 initial medical which can be performed by an authorised medical examiner (AME) or by the CAA medical department at Gatwick. Some students choose to apply for the Class 1 medical at the outset, which is the requirement for professional pilots, and this initial medical can only be performed by the CAA (though subsequent renewals/revalidations can be performed by AMEs). Whichever kind you have, the initial medical is when you are issued with a CAA reference number which will ultimately become your pilots licence number as well.

This initial medical has a validity of between 1 and 5 years. The duration is either 6 months or 1 year for the professional Class 1 medical depending on age and whether for certain types of single-pilot or for multicrew flying duties. It also depends on your age for the Class 2 medical – it will last for 5 years if you are under 40 years of age, for 2 years if you are under 50 and for one year aged over 50.

The medical process begins with the Form MED160, which is a self declaration of your own health or illnesses. It can be seen on the downloadable Pdf file here. This is treated as a legal document and has to be kept by your AME for a minimum of 8 years; it repays some thought in completing and discussion with your AME if you have any doubt about how to complete it. The medical itself takes the form of an overall check-up physical examination plus a urine test (you need to provide a small sample on the day), blood pressure, basic eyesight and hearing tests, and a finger-prick blood sample for Class 1s and for the initial Class 2.

The standards of eyesight are slightly stricter for Class 1 than Class 2 and also for the initial medical compared to all the subsequent renewals or revalidations. Colour vision is tested at the initial Class 1 and 2 medical; there are effectively gradations of colour vision impairment and it is not necessarily a bar to all flying. Hearing tests are the equivalent of hearing quiet conversation for the Class 2 but involve audiometry (listening to graded quiet sounds through headphones) periodically for Class 1 and for other pilots with Instrument Ratings. An ECG is needed periodically for both classes of medical and the frequency increases with age.

At the end of the initial validity period you will need a revalidation medical or a renewal medical. These two are essentially the same and the difference in terminology reflects whether your previous medical is still valid (needing a revalidation) or has expired (needing a renewal). The standards are sometimes less strict than at the initial whether class 1 or 2 (in eyesight, for example). Most Class 1 and 2 renewals and revalidations are performed by AMEs but are also offered by the CAA.

I hope this is helpful as an outline of the medical system for pilots. If you would like to discuss your circumstances in more detail or to make informal enquiries you are welcome to contact me at the number or email address above. Good luck with the flying!