AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 20

GUEST EDITORIAL

Reach out

BY SUSAN NORTHRUP
Federal Air Surgeon

The office of aerospace medicine and you

Federal Air Surgeon
SUSAN NORTHRUP
is a retired U.S. Air
Force colonel, a
senior FAA aviation
medical examiner,
board certified in
aerospace medicine
and occupational
medicine, and a
private pilot.

20 | AOPA PILOT June 2021

I RECENTLY SAW A SOCIAL MEDIA POST in which an airman complained about how difficult it was to get a
special medical authorization in 2007 (yes, 13.5 years
ago), which he subsequently never renewed. In 2017,
he resumed flying under BasicMed and now believes
he deserves an apology from the FAA for making
things so hard.
Sadly, he grounded himself for nine years when
he had options.
I have communicated with thousands of aviators
during my career at the FAA-whether in person at
fly-in events, or by phone or email. Regardless of the
forum, I always listen. I understand it can be particularly challenging to get the special authorization,
especially if you have never done it before. Depending
on the conditions, subsequent renewals can be
equally difficult, although it typically gets easier.
Regardless of your situation, you can take a few
steps to help yourself:
* Get smart about the requirements. The FAA's
Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners is on FAA.gov.
* Review your medical documentation closely to
make sure the information is thorough and accurate.
We read everything closely.
* Make sure every page is legible and contains
at least your name and a date. All letters from health
care providers must be signed. Clinical notes may be
attached without signatures.
* Ensure that each item we asked for is in the
package you send to the FAA.
* Make sure your contact details are correct in our
system and on your paperwork. I can't begin to tell
you how many times I could have solved an issue with
a phone call but was forced to write a letter because
the phone number on file for the airman was no good.
* Keep a copy of everything you send. Mail and
even FedEx packages can go astray or be misdelivered.
* Finally, consider enlisting the services of AOPA,
the Experimental Aircraft Association, an aviation medical examiner, or other pilot advocate if you
have a complicated case. Should you need a limited
extension, contact the Airman Medical Certification
Division or your regional flight surgeon's office.
The FAA's Office of Aerospace Medicine has
changed for the better in the past decade, and we
aren't finished yet. We met with external stakeholders, including AOPA, in November 2020 to seek

input on additional ways to better serve the aviation
community. All the participants agreed that better
communication is vital.
We recently published the Federal Air Surgeon's
Medical Bulletin, the first in a couple of years, and
we are developing microlearning for airmen that
will discuss various items of interest in minute-long
segments. We are rewriting our letter templates to
more clearly tell airmen what we need to address
their cases, and we are developing an electronic
method for submitting medical documentation
directly and securely.
Meanwhile, we reduced the scanning backlog to
less than a week. Hopefully, this will reduce the incidence of letters crossing in the mail. We continue to
evaluate additional conditions suitable for an AME
Assisted Special Issuance (AASI) or Condition an
AME Can Issue (CACI). Finally, we are working on
a system that eventually will enable each applicant to
track the progress of a case electronically.
What about the airman I mentioned at the
beginning of this column? I looked him up. He was
appropriately deferred by his AME under the policy
in place in 2007. However, he was ultimately granted
an AASI after he provided a lab value and a clinical
summary from his doctor. We would have released
him from the AASI in 2012 if nothing had changed.
(In 2013, the airman's condition became one of those
that AMEs can now issue without FAA review.)
The unfortunate part of this whole event is that
the airman apparently never sought assistance from
AOPA, EAA, or several other organizations that could
have helped him. The result: He grounded himself
unnecessarily for years.
Don't let this happen to you. Of the typical 385,000
applications for airman medical certificates per year
(2020 was down slightly), only 10 percent end up with
a special issuance. One percent encounter an initial
denial, most for failure to provide information or selfremoval from consideration. Less than 0.1 percent of
all cases result in a final denial once all requested materials are provided.
Reach out.
The FAA's Office of Aerospace Medicine is committed to public outreach and education, including columns
like this. You can expect to hear from us more regularly.
Fly safe!
AOPA


http://www.FAA.gov

AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 11
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 20
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 21
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover4
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