By Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside
July 30, 2013 - Pilots love to bash the FAA, and there's always plenty of ammunition. Recently, however, the FAA made some changes to its policy on processing and approving special-issuance medical certificates, which could eliminate some pilot complaints - at least as they involve the medical certification process.
The new policy is called CACI, for Conditions the AME Can Issue, and authorizes an aviation medical examiner (AME) to issue a pilot's medical certificate on the spot if the pilot provides the proper documentation of certain, common conditions requiring additional review. Yes, the documentation is still required, but it no longer has to be forwarded to the FAA's offices in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where it can be lost or delayed.
Under the new policy, a pilot's AME can issue a normal-duration medical certificate the day of the examination, eliminating the delays and uncertainty of earlier policies and procedures. The change is something industry has long sought from the FAA, and EAA's Aeromedical Advisory Council was heavily involved in bringing it about.
"We are incredibly fortunate to have the Aeromedical Advisory Council at EAA," Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety, said when the new policy was announced.
"These six AMEs are among the most experienced and respected doctors in the aeromedical business, and this announcement represents the culmination of several years of hard work on this policy they have done on behalf of our membership."
Not all possible medical conditions are included in this policy change, however. The ones specifically included are arthritis, asthma, glaucoma, chronic hepatitis C, hypertension, hypothyroidism, migraine and chronic headache, pre-diabetes, and renal cancer. According to EAA, the FAA is expected to include additional diagnoses in the CACI program in coming months.
Those diagnoses, according to Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton, will include kidney stones, carotid artery stenosis, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, and Hodgkin lymphoma.
Writing in the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin earlier this year, Tilton added note that the new policy will "help us to reduce the time that other airmen experience as they wait for us to approve their special issuances for more complicated medical conditions."
Tilton also wrote to the AME community, "In the coming months, we will continue to refine the special issuance list, as well as find other ways to enhance our certification process in our efforts to support you and the airmen you serve."
All of this is good news for pilots, and good news for EAA, whose efforts in representing its members in these and other areas continue paying off. But don't fret: There always will be reasons for FAA bashing at your next hangar flying session.
Thanks to EAA and CACI, however, the delays associated with special-issuance medical certificates may not be one of them.