Medical Deferral Timelines – AOPA Pilot Information Center

This follows comments on wait times from the FAA. For forward-looking purposes, here is an overview of the FAA’s decision-making processes.

No two applications are the same, so the time it takes to receive an FAA medical certificate will be different. What we can say is that once the documents are received and scanned into the FAA database. From that point, if additional items are needed, it can take up to 4-6 weeks for a pilot to receive a letter from the FAA requesting that additional information. After the requested items are returned to the FAA, they go through the scanning process again and the document is reviewed. Sometimes this newly submitted information will cause the FAA to ask for even more. Thus, begin the process of obtaining, scanning and reviewing these documents. From the moment the FAA has ALL the documents it needs to make a decision, then said clock starts.

For cases that are not complicated, 1st class applications take on average 1-2 months for a decision, 2nd class takes 2-3 months and 3rd class can take 3-4 months. For complicated cases, which may require a review by a specialist or even for cases that require a decision from the Federal Air Surgeons office in Washington DC, this time frame is extended. Some of these cases can take more than a year from the time the FAA receives the most recent documents that have been submitted.

While there’s no way to speed up this process, there are things Airmen can do that can help. The first is to follow the FAA letters to the “T”, provide exactly what they require, no more and no less. Be sure to include your name, date of birth, and PI# if available on each document submitted (be sure to keep copies for your own records, of course). And keep the lines of communication open with the FAA. If you are unable to meet the due date, send them a letter letting them know and ask for an extension. Most often the FAA will issue a medical certificate, we just have to be patient and wait for the process to complete. Once issued and all health issues resolved, future medical certificate renewals will likely not be as complicated.