Do I need a medical exam to be a pilot?

If you’ve talked to other pilots, you may have heard about “the medical.” Don’t worry—you do not have to have perfect health or 20/20 vision. Recreational and Private pilots who are just starting out do need to pass a basic medical exam from an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). There are hundreds of AMEs across the country, and you’ll most likely find one very close to your home – here’s a helpful tool.

Your flight physical will be a brief medical exam, including tests of your hearing, vision and blood pressure. Before you visit the AME, make sure to fill out the FAA’s MedXPress online form. Typically, you’ll receive your medical on the spot.

For more information, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has a helpful page with tips, videos and an online tool.

Once you’ve passed an initial medical exam (and at all times for the Sport Pilot Certificate), you can self-certify your medical fitness. For Sport Pilots, a driver’s license and a personal assessment of your health is all that is needed. For Recreational and Private Pilots, there are a few more requirements, but it’s still fairly easy.

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John knows how lucky he is to go to work every day at an airport. As Vice President of Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s Catalog Division, he says, “I get to hang around airplanes all the time, flying regularly and testing new products for the catalog.” Coming from an aviation family, John grew up in the back of small airplanes and learned to fly as a teenager. Ever since, he has been hooked on anything with wings and regularly flies a Citabria, a Pilatus PC-12 and a Robinson R44 helicopter. Despite his love of low and slow flight, John says, “I love the challenge of IFR flying in the system. Seeing the runway lights as you break out on approach is a thrill.”