I don’t think that anyone goes into aviation thinking, “This will be the easiest thing I’ve ever done”. The idea that humans can fly is crazy right?! But it’s amazing, and fun, and wonderful. So it only makes sense that all good things must come with a price. In this case, the cost is all the paperwork that comes along with getting your license.
Shortly after my fist lesson Jacob and I sat down and went through the IACRA site together to register me as a student pilot. The process took about 30min and was super easy and worry free. Two weeks later I had a proper Student’s license in the mail. Talk about exciting?! I was giddy! That was just the beginning though.
In order to take your first solo flight, you have to have your medical certificate. Having your medical certificate requires you to have a 3rd Class Physical Exam given by an FAA approved Examiner (Doctor). In some cases being able to schedule the appointment can take a while, in others, the FAA may require additional information before giving approval so I wanted to get a jump on the process. I had talked to a lot of pilots and all of them said the same thing; “make sure that the examiner that you go to is either a pilot themselves, or has an interest in making sure that you are.” From what I’m told many good pilots have been grounded because of a picky examiner, and nobody wants that. Of course we want to be safe, but we are all human after all, nobody is perfect. After doing some research and calling around I settled on Dr. Donald Huffman in Clarksville.
Before you can go to your 3rd Class, you have to fill out a very lengthy form with the FAA documenting all your medical history from the last 3years. That might not be a lot for some people, but I was pregnant and had had a baby in that time. That’s a lot of doctor’s appointments! I have also had chronic migraines since I was 8 years old that are controlled with daily medication. All of those things might not seem like a big deal, I mean, nobody asks any questions whether or not I can drive safely. But the FAA doesn’t care if I can drive. They only care if I can fly safely, so everything goes under the microscope. That made me nervous. Very nervous. But I wasn’t quitting. I had to request copies of all my visits to my general physician as well as my OB. That took a couple of weeks to get all the information back. Then I spent about 2 hours on MedXpress.FAA.Gov entering in every visit, why, and what the outcome was. After it was all said and done I got my FAA medical number. This is the number you will take with you to your exam for the Doctor to submit with your results. Be warned however, this number has an expiration date. If your exam can’t be scheduled in time you’ll have to request to file again, so make sure that you are scheduling accordingly.
I was super nervous to go to my exam. They took me back, recorded my weight, height, and tested my eyesight, and asked me to have a seat in the exam room while I waited for the doctor. When Dr. Huffman came in, he was a lot nicer and more laid back than I had made up in my mind. He talked to me about everything on the form and asked all kinds of questions, concentrating on my migraines. He took a lot of notes. By the time we were finished he had a substantial amount of added information and I was worried. “Would they ground me for my migraines?” “Does this mean I can’t ever fly?” “Did I just spend all that money for nothing?” He assured me that he was going to have as much information documented as possible and that that was in my favor in the eyes of the FAA. He also mentioned that it would behoove me to obtain as much information from my doctors confirming what I had said about my migraines during the exam. That shouldn’t be hard right?
Insert foot in mouth. It is hard. Especially considering that I began seeing a neurologist in New York 10 years ago. A Neurologist that has since retired, and who does not have a forwarding number. So from here I sit and wait for the letter from my general physician and the response from the FAA. I’ll update you along the way, but for now we wait. Fingers crossed!