Qualifying for a third-class medical certificate isn’t something that most pilots who are in good health will have to worry about.

But it’s a good idea to know what you can expect during your FAA medical exam, and the requirements you must meet to be issued a medical certificate.

Third-Class Medical Certificate Requirements

Vision

Distant Vision: Distant vision must be correctable to 20/40 in each eye

Near Vision: Near vision must be correctable to 20/40 or better in each eye, as measured at 16 inches

Color Vision: The “ability to perceive those colors necessary for safe performance of airman duties” is required. This sounds quite vague and is open to interpretation to an extent.

If you fail the color vision test during your medical, you can still be issued with a third-class certificate, but it will read “Not valid for night flying or by color signal controls.”

If you take and pass an alternative FAA-approved test, these restrictions can be lifted.

If you fail an alternate test, you can take an operational color vision test (OCVT) that involves a signal light test and a practical test. If you pass, a 3rd Class Letter of Evidence will be issued that lifts restrictions but may make you ineligible for any medical certificate that is higher than third-class.

Hearing

You must “demonstrate hearing of an average conversational voice in a quiet room, using both ears at 6 feet, with the back turned to the examiner or pass one of the audiometric tests” OR pass an audiometric test.

This test can either be an audiometric speech discrimination test or pure tone audiometric test

ENT, Pulse, and Blood Pressure

You must not suffer from any ear, nose, or throat condition that interferes with, or could be aggravated by flying, including the interference of clear communication, or is manifested by vertigo or a disturbance of equilibrium

Mental Health

You must not have a diagnosis of psychosis, bipolar disorder, or severe personality disorders.

Substance Dependence and Abuse

Unless there is established clinical evidence of recovery, including abstinence of at least 2 years, a diagnosis or medical history of substance dependence is disqualifying.

A history of substance abuse within the past 2 years is also disqualifying.

Disqualifying Conditions

Besides substance use and dependence, and the mental health conditions listed above, medical disqualifying conditions include:

  • Angina pectoris
  • Bipolar disease
  • Cardiac valve replacement
  • Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant
  • Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
  • Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of the cause
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart replacement
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Permanent cardiac pacemaker
  • Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without a satisfactory explanation of the cause

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does the Medical Exam Last?

An FAA medical exam should last no longer than 30-45 minutes.

Does the Medical Exam Involve a Drug Test?

A urine test is required but this is to check sugars and protein levels as indicators of diabetes and kidney disease. Drugs are not tested for.

What Happens If You Lie During a Medical Exam?

An FAA medical exam largely relies on self-reporting instead of checking medical records, which some pilots take as an opportunity to not disclose anything that could get in the way of getting a medical certificate.

However, if you are involved in an incident or accident, a thorough investigation usually takes place and the truth will eventually come out. If you are caught lying, you may face losing your license, a fine, or even criminal prosecution.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Medical Certificate?

Taking the medical exam to be issued a medical certificate costs $75-200, depending on the location and the aviation medical examiner.

What Can You Do With a Third-Class Medical Certificate?

A third-class medical certificate is required for a private pilot or recreational pilot license. While a medical certificate is not required to take flying lessons, if a student pilot wants to fly solo, which is required to work towards getting a PPL, a medical certificate is required.

How Long is a Third-Class Medical Certificate Valid For?

A third-class certificate is good for 60 months if a pilot is aged 40 or under. If over 40, the certificate is valid for 24 months.