How many types of pilot medical are there? And which should you take?

There are two types of medical examination for pilots: Class 1 and Class 2.  Pilots wishing to operate for recreational purposes and have no intention of flying commercially can obtain a Class 2 medical, which is valid for five years.  

For those pilots who wish to fly commercially, a Class 1 is mandatory and is a more thorough medical than the Class 2. It will need to be renewed every 12 months up until the age of 40 and then every six months after turning 40. Renewing Class 1 medicals can only continue up to the age of 65.

The Class 1 medical aims to rule out medical conditions that could mean you’d be unable to qualify as a pilot, namely conditions such as diabetes or colour blindness. 

In some cases, the medical will unveil underlying medical conditions. There are some conditions that will still allow a pilot to fly but may need to be tested for severity. 

As a commercial pilot, you will be responsible for renewing your Class 1 medical and for maintaining your health. The general advice is to keep as fit and healthy as possible throughout your flying career.

Just so you know what to expect, a Class 1 medical consists of: 
  • Review of Medical history 
  • Eyesight test - Take your last optician’s report with you
  • Hearing test
  • Physical examination - examining lungs, heart, blood pressure, stomach, limbs and nervous system
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) 
  • Lung function test (spirometry) 
  • Haemoglobin blood test
  • Urine test 
This should take around four hours. You should take the following things along to your medical:  
  • proof of identity; i.e. a Passport or national ID card; 
  • a signed declaration of the following: medical facts concerning your medical history; whether you have previously applied for a medical certificate or have undergone an aero-medical examination for a medical certificate and, if so, by whom and with what result; whether you have ever been assessed as unfit or had a medical certificate suspended or revoked. 
  • your most recent medical certificate (if reapplying or renewing)
  • your most recently issued Medical Certificate, where appropriate
  • your most recent pair of glasses (and spare sets) and prescription where applicable
  • a list of any prescribed medication, plus the date you’ve been taking medications since
  • medication dosage and purpose for prescription
  • relevant medical documentation and reports 
General advice is to opt for a Class 1 medical to cover all bases. If you don’t pass a Class 1 you can always then take a Class 2, which will give you other options to explore.   

If you do pass the Class 1 medical, you will walk away with your medical certificate on the same day. 

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