Since the FAA mandated the use of the online FAA Application for Medical Certification, MedXPress, several years ago, we are seeing a growing number of rusty pilots who have been out of flying for a number of years and now have the itch to get back in the airplane. This is, of course, great news for a struggling general aviation industry! However, one of the changes that surprise many of them is that the paper application that we completed in the waiting room of the aviation medical examiner's office is now obsolete.
In 2001, AOPA developed an online “pre-medical application” planning tool known as TurboMedical that replicates the questions on the FAA paper Form 8500-8. We recently updated TurboMedical so its functionality now is similar to what you see on the MedXPress online application. Considering that most of us currently have to renew our medical application at least every two years for third class certification, seeing MedXPress once every other year can make it challenging to remember what we reported on the previous application. With MedXPress, the only way to save the current application is to print it after submitting it to the FAA. Then you can either hang onto the hard copy or scan it electronically for reference at your next flight physical.
Another option is to take advantage of TurboMedical and do a “trial run” of the application before you complete MedXPress. TurboMedical will save all your responses so you can refer to the completed form that’s retained for your eyes only when you get ready to do MedXPress. Considering the nature of the questions on the medical application, it can be very easy to check “no” on a question that was previously a “yes.” This is particularly true in section 18, the medical history section that asks if you “have now or have ever had anytime in your life” any of the following medical conditions. If you check “no” on an item in that section that you previously answered “yes,” expect the FAA to request clarification. Once a question is answered “yes,” it will be a yes on all subsequent applications, again, because of the way the question is asked at the beginning of section 18. If there has been no change, just indicate that in the explanation for the “yes” response.
Another “gotcha” to watch for is Item 17, use of medications. We get calls almost daily from members who report medications on the application that they no longer take. Why that is I’m not sure, other than a failure to read the question carefully! The instruction for Item 17 states, “Do you currently [emphasis mine] use any medications (Prescription or Nonprescription)?” If you are not taking any medications at the time you complete the medical application, it’s reasonable to conclude that you don’t need to report the medications. Now, there is a twist to that. If you are providing any medical records to the FAA that incorrectly list medications that you are no longer taking, the FAA may request a current status report from your doctor confirming the date the medications were discontinued. For that reason, it’s a good idea to carefully review any records you are sending to the FAA just to be sure that the information in the records is accurate. Just because they are medical records doesn’t mean they are always accurate!