An FAA Airman Medical Certificate must be obtained before a pilot can fly solo or act as PIC. Your instructor will counsel you on which class of certificate you will need to obtain. In most cases, sport pilots will be exempt from the medical exam.
The medical exam must be obtained from an AME, who are medical doctors authorized by the FAA to conduct flight physicals. AMEs are located all around the world; use the FAA's AME Locator Service to find an AME in your area.
It is important to be prepared for your flight physical. Any previous or current medical conditions will need to be reported to the AME. Come prepared with your medical records, in tow. If possible, get a current statement from your most recent treating physician which describes the technical details of your condition.
Most AMEs use MedXPress, an Internet based application you should complete prior to your flight physical.
Medical Certificate Classes
- A First Class certificate is valid for six months unless you are younger than 40 when you have your physical, in which case your certificate is valid for twelve months.
- A Second Class certificate is valid for twelve months regardless of your age.
- A Third Class certificate is valid for 24 months unless you are younger than 40 when you have your physical, in which case your certificate is valid for 60 months.
Visit the FAA's Medical Certification web page
Pre-solo Written Exam
The pre-solo written exam is a very difficult test. Your CFI will administer and grade the exam. The exam must be corrected to 100% prior to a student pilot's first solo flight.
While open book, this test is a very thorough exercise on aircraft make/model specific systems, limitations, and specifications; local airport operations, communications, and navigation, normal/emergency ground/flight operations, cockpit resource management, and aeronautical decision making.
This test will have very few multiple choice or true/false questions. Instead, a student can expect to provide short answers, fill in the blanks, draw diagrams, and write short paragraphs.
Computer Based Knowledge Test
FAA Knowledge Test is administered at designated testing centers worldwide. We are currently pursuing the possibility of proctoring all knowledge exams at the Wilmington International Airport's north ramp; and we are anticipating a start date of 7/1/2011. Additionally, we are developing knowledge test prep software. We have plans to develop Internet based test prep modules in the near future.
All FAA knowledge tests questions are A-B-C multiple choice. You will be allowed to bring a calculator, E6B (manual or electronic), and plotter to use in the exam.
You will be required to bring a photo ID and instructor's endorsement with you to confirm your identity and eligibility to take the test. Your exam will be graded immediately, and you will be provided with an official score report prior to your departure from the testing center.
All FAA Practical Tests (A.K.A. check rides) are conducted in two parts. The DPE will administer an oral exam followed by a flight exam. Satisfactory performance is required on the oral exam before the flight exam can be attempted. The practical test, commonly referred to as a check ride, may be discontinued at any time by the examinee for any reason, and that reason does not have to be disclosed to the examiner. The exam can terminate in one of three ways:
- Pass: Most likely, you will pass your check ride on your first attempt. Your oral exam answers were adequate and your flying was well within the parameters set forth in the PTS (see "Area Of Operations" section). Congratulations, you have reached a new milestone and deserve a pat on the back. The DPE will issue you a Temporary Airman Certificate, which will expire in 120 days. Your permanent airman certificate should arrive within that time. If you do not receive your permanent certificate within 90 days, notify your recommending CFI to initiate search-and-rescue of your certificate.
- Fail: Although rare, failures do occur. If you should be unfortunate enough to fail your check ride, the DPE will issue a "Notice of Disapproval." The notice will describe the specific Areas of Operation in which your performance was unsatisfactory. You will need to obtain corrective instruction from a CFI on your deficiency before you can retest.
- To be continued: Examiners and examinees alike prefer to complete the check ride in a single day; however, unexpected things can occur during the exam. In the interest of fairness and safety, the FAA permits both the examiner and examinee to stop the test at any time and for any reason. The FAA does not require the examinee to provide a reason for stopping the exam. The examiner will issue a "Letter of Discontinuance" to the examinee, which will describe the tasks that were not attempted. The exam can be resumed at any time.
All FAA Practical Tests are conducted in accordance to the PTS. The PTS serves as a rulebook to both the examiner and the examinee. The PTS can be obtained from the FAA's website for free:
- Sport Pilot PTS
- Recreational Pilot PTS
- Private Pilot PTS
- Instrument Plot PTS
- Commercial Pilot PTS
- ATP PTS
In the oral component of your practical test, the examiner will test your aeronautical knowledge. Most examiners will ask lots of detailed questions about the systems of your airplane, as well as general questions concerning FAA and TSA regulations, safety, efficienty (pilot and fuel), aerodynamics, weather, airspace, aeronautical charts, flight planning, emergencies, normal operations, responsibilities of command, scenerio-based aeronautical decision making, and cockpit resource management. They may also ask questions concerning any of the "Special Emphasis Areas" or any of the tasks found under the "Examiner's Checklist" in the PTS. We recommend that answers to the examiner's questions be as brief as possible; if the examiner needs you to elaborate, he or she will ask you to do so.
Examiners will also review your aircraft's log books, weight & balance calculations, cross-country flight plans, pilot log book, photo ID, and any other items listed on the "Applicant's Checklist" within the PTS during the oral exam. The fee, if required, will also be collected. Successful completion of the oral exam is required to move on to the flight exam.
The expetations for the flight component of the check ride are much more black and white compared to the gray expectations of the oral exam. Simply refer to the "Special Emphasis Areas" and the "Examiner's Checklist" for an excellent list of maneuvers you will be evaluated on in your flight exam. For each "task" in the "Examiner's Checklist", you will find clearly defined standards of satisfactory performance in the pages immediately after. Refer to the specific "Area of Operation" to index the standards for any task. If you are able to perform each task listed in the checklist to the standards listed in the PTS, you will pass your check ride.