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Mon, Mar 31, 2003

EAA: Military Call-Up Slows FAA Aeromedical Certification

Expect Delays in Special Issuance Medicals

Pilots with pending special issuance medical certificates will likely have a longer wait because Operation Iraqi Freedom has cut into FAA Aeromedical headquarters' staff in Oklahoma City. The military has called to active duty two of the five physicians who handle special issuances and other duties for FAA Aerospace Medical Certification.

One physician is serving with the Army National Guard in Bosnia and the other is on duty with the Air Guard in the Middle East. The FAA staff didn't have a lot of time to deal with the call-ups, said Dr. Warren Silberman, head of FAA Aerospace Medical Certification, adding that one doctor was called to active duty on short notice.

Compounding the situation is the continuing funding resolution Congress passed in February. It includes a hiring freeze, so the unit is unable to fill the open permanent and contract aeromedical positions. But when the FAA doctors were called to active duty, Silberman received immediate authority to hire a new doctor, who should be onboard by the end of April.

The bottom line: Delays for initial special issuances will be up to three months, Silberman said. For recertifications and regular reviews, expect up to a two-month delay.

What Pilots Can Do

Pilots awaiting special issuance decisions are assured that the FAA's "skeleton crew" is doing the best they can, Silberman said. He offers the following suggestions to allow them to work as efficiently as possible.

The EAA recommends pilots learn exactly what information, records, and/or tests the FAA requires for a particular medical condition. When pilots don't submit all information the FAA needs to evaluate a special issuance medical certificate, it creates a back-and-forth situation that adds more time to the process.

"That is the crux of one of the biggest problems we have," Silberman said. "To give us a head start and avoid back-and-forth delays, pilots and their local aviation medical examiners need to get their materials together in one package and get it off to us, so that when we get the materials, everything is there and we can make a decision."

Silberman strongly advises pilots to provide exactly what the instructions call for. "We ask for certain things for a reason, so when you go to your AME, don't let your physician talk you into anything less than we require, unless they speak with someone here and get the go-ahead."

In short, pilots can play a proactive role in reducing the delay in special issuance medical certification by providing all the information the FAA requires for the condition in question. "We do not like to make airmen wait," Silberman said, but the FAA cannot act until the pilot submits what the FAA needs to make the decision.

FMI: www.eaa.org, www.faa.gov

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