Aviation Law Articles

F.A.A. and Pilot Medical Examinations
602 or 609, Either Way, It Is Not Benign

A pilot medical application can be denied if the designated medical examiner and/or F.A.A. determines that he or she is medically unfit to fly. There are some fifteen medical conditions which will automatically disqualify a pilot from all classes of medical certification. These include some types of diabetes, various heart ailments, various psychological disorders, epilepsy and substance abuse. If a medical certificate is denied, the pilot can appeal to an Administrative Law Judge (A.L.J.). However, in such a “602” hearing, the pilot bears the burden of proving that the medical condition does not exist or has substantially changed to make the pilot medically fit. Then, even if able to convince the A.L.J. by a preponderance of the evidence, the F.A.A. may appeal to the full N.T.S.B. and then to a U.S. Court of Appeal.

Likewise, in a “609” proceeding, where the F.A.A. has suspended or revoked a medical certificate, the pilot may appeal the order and get a hearing before an A.L.J. However, here, the burden is on the F.A.A. to prove that its action was justified. For example, the F.A.A. may suspend or revoke a medical certificate based upon the pilot not answering the medical application truthfully with respect to motor vehicle actions.

Irrespective of whether it is a 602 or a 609 procedure, the hurdles are difficult, they can be expensive (in the case of medical experts) and time consuming. Moreover, the N.T.S.B. is very deferential to the F.A.A., as in the much publicized Hoover case, and the time constraints can be daunting. The whole process may take the “wind from under your wings.”
by Richard T. Miller, Specialist in Aviation Law – (818) 994-8234