Getting your medical class 1 certificate

To operate as a commercial pilot, you must be 18 or over and will require a Class 1 medical certificate, have general medical fitness, good eyesight and hearing which are all prerequisites for any type of flying. There are a number of medical conditions that could prohibit you from making a career in flying, so obtain your Class 1 medical before you take any other step. This will ensure that either you are fit to complete the training and pursue the career or identify that you have underlying medical issues that could prevent you from achieving your goals. If you suffer from a problem which militates against you becoming a commercial pilot, it’s better to find out at the start rather than after you have spent thousands of euros on flight training.

That said, if you do identify a medical issue that immediately prohibits you from getting a Class 1 medical – the most common reason for failure being eyesight – all is not lost with regard to becoming a commercial pilot. Restrictions can occasionally be lifted if certain criteria have been met. This is obviously specific to the individual, and you should consult an aviation medical examiner for advice on specific medical conditions, if any are found.

The initial medical must be obtained from an Aeromedical Centre (AeMC), and once this has been done the yearly revalidations can be performed by a number of aviation medical examiners around Europe. The initial medical is quite extensive and starts with your completion of their application form (available from the AeMC) and a medical consisting of an ophthalmology examination, ECG, audiogram, hemoglobin, lipid profile, lung function and cholesterol tests.

  • Medical Examination Initial Class 1

    You should be fit, have good eyesight and hearing, and have no current or previous illness which might interfere with the safe exercise of a commercial or airline transport pilot’s licence.

    The initial medical examination must be done at an Aeromedical Centre (AeMC).

    Some of the tests have to be reported by external consultants and the results are then gathered together. The medical officer doing your physical examination should be able to tell you whether all seems normal. Once the results are collated, and are satisfactory, your medical certificate will be issued. Often this is possible on the same day as your initial examination.

  • Where can I do the medical class 1 examination?

    The examination can be completed in any EASA country. The price and duration varies between the member states. It may be a good idea to combine a Iceland Aviation Academy school visit with the medical examination. Please note that it may take a few days to complete the different medical examinations.

  • Can I fly with diabetes?

    Pilots with diabetes treated with insulin (and other medications that significantly lower blood glucose), may now be considered for a medical certificate. Until now, only a limited number of medications for the treatment of diabetes have been allowed for pilots and air traffic controllers (ATCOs) applying for Class 1, 2 and 3 medical certificates. However, over recent years there have been advances in the treatment and monitoring of the disease, allowing the control of the condition and any complications to be managed more effectively. The decision should allow more licensed pilots and ATCOs, who have diabetes, to continue to undertake operational duties safely.

    Individual diabetic applicants who are granted medical certificates under the new protocol will, however, be subject to a rigorous monitoring regime, including demonstrated stability of their condition, and regular blood sample self-testing during flight/duty. This is to ensure that an individual does not begin a flight or shift with too high, or too low, a sugar level, and that a safe level is maintained.

  • The Examination

    • Vision – Distance

      This is the commonest cause of difficulty during the examination. The exact requirements are listed at EASA Class 1 Visual Standards/European Class 3 Visual standards. If you are in any doubt you should take a copy of the standards to an optician who will be able to interpret them. This will allow you to have an initial eye test before your examination. If there is any further doubt you should send the optician’s report to the AeMC for assessment. Your visual acuity (measured by your ability to see, in this case, lines of letters on a chart at 6 metres) must be at least 6/9 in each eye separately and 6/6 using both eyes together, with or without glasses or contact lenses (correction). If you need correction, the refractive error (the amount of correction) must not exceed +5.00 dioptres of long sight or -6.00 dioptres of short sight. This is in the most ametropic meridian (taking into account any astigmatism). Astigmatism must not exceed 2.00 dioptres. The difference in correction between each eye (anisometropia) must not be more than 2.00 dioptres. Your optometrist will be able to explain these terms.

    • Vision – Near

      On the standard near vision eye chart you must be able to read the N5 print between 30 and 50 cm and the N14 print at 100 cm, with or without correction.

    • Hearing

      The basic hearing test used throughout EASA-FCL 3 is the ability to hear conversational speech when tested with each ear at a distance of 2 metres.

      An audiogram is required and measures the ability to hear sounds at different frequencies (pitch).

      If you have doubts about your hearing, the required hearing levels are listed in EASA Class 1 Hearing Requirements/European Class 3 Hearing Requirements. It may be possible for you to have a preliminary test at a local hospital.

    • Medical History

      These are questions about any previous illness declared on your application form. You will be asked about them by the examining doctor, and if there is any major illness in your past, it is important to bring reports about it from your family doctor or specialist. Simple appendicitis or a broken arm are not regarded as major illnesses.

    • Physical Examination

      A general check that all is functioning correctly. It will cover lungs, heart, blood pressure, stomach, limbs and nervous system.

    • Electrocardiogram – (ECG)

      This measures the electrical impulses passing through your heart. It can show disorders of the heart rhythm or of the conduction of the impulses, and sometimes it can show a lack of blood supplying the heart muscle. In the unlikely event of these changes showing on your ECG, further tests with a report from a cardiologist will have to be sought (these can sometimes be carried out at the AeMC). Most changes turn out to be of no significance and if they appear again on your subsequent ECGs they can normally be discounted, as they have already been investigated.

    • Lung Function Test (spirometry)

      This is a test to evaluate the efficiency of your airways. Having asthma does not disqualify you from holding a Class 1 medical, but it must be controlled by your medication and this is assessed by spirometry. If these results are outside the acceptable limits you will be required to undertake an exercise test.

    • Haemoglobin blood test

      This is a finger prick blood test which measures the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. A low haemoglobin is called anaemia and will need further investigation.

    • Cholesterol blood test

      The same finger prick as above. There is no disqualifying level, but the possible health risks of a high cholesterol will be explained by the doctor at the time of your examination.

    • Urine Test

      Mainly looking for sugar (diabetes), protein or blood.