Note: All information is currently up to date. If the FAA makes changes to any regulations, it will be reflected on this page.
As specified in FAR 61.23, a third-class medical certificate is good for 5 years (60 months) if you are younger than 40 years old, and 2 years (24 months) if you are aged 40 or older.
Recreational, private, and student pilots working towards higher certification are all required to hold at least a third-class medical (with the exception of any pilot seeking to fly a balloon or glider).
Third-Class vs. Second-Class vs. First-Class Medical Duration
Compared to a third-class medical certificate, a second-class medical is valid for 12 months.
A first-class medical is valid for 12 months if you are younger than 40 years old, and 6 months if you are aged 40 or older. If a first-class certificate expires after 12 months, it will automatically be downgraded to a third-class medical.
Can I Fly With an Expired Third-Class Medical Certificate?
If your medical certificate has expired, you can fly with an instructor, or with someone else acting as pilot in command; fly a glider, balloon, or ultralight aircraft; or fly under BasicMed, though this will have certain limitations attached to it.
How Can I Renew My Medical Certificate?
Renewing your third-class medical requires making an appointment with a qualified Aviation Medical Examiner, who will check to make sure that you meet certain medical requirements.
Renewal should cost no more than $75-150 unless a waiver is needed or a health problem is discovered – in which case a special medical exam with extra tests and procedures may be required.
What Happens If There is a Change in My Medical Condition Before Expiry?
According to “Pilot Self-Grounding Requirements” (CFR 61.53), if there has been any change in your medical condition, you are required to report these changes to the FAA before you can fly again.
In other words, the FAA largely relies on self-reporting instead of checking your medical records, and expects you to take responsibility if your health changes in such a way that you are “unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate.”
In such a scenario, it is recommended to visit an Aviation Medical Examiner who will inform you whether the change in your health is sufficient for grounding or not, and what your options might be.
BasicMed vs. Third-Class Medical Certificate
BasicMed can often be used as an alternative to a third-class medical certificate. However, this only applies if you have been issued with a medical certificate anytime after July 14th, 2006. If not, this option is not available to you.
While BasicMed can sound appealing due to only requiring approval from a primary care doctor, it isn’t without its drawbacks.
Operating as a private pilot under BasicMed limits you to not being able to carry no more than 5 passengers, not being allowed to fly internationally, not being able to fly VFR or IFR above 18,000 feet MSL, only being permitted to fly at a maximum of 250 knots, and not being able to operate any aircraft that exceeds 6,000 pounds.
A BasicMed physical examination is also required every 4 years compared to the 5 years a third-class medical is valid for.