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Guidance Issued for Pilots, Controllers With Confirmed COVID-19

Much-anticipated guidance has gone from the Federal Aviation Administration to aviation medical examiners (AME) regarding how to handle medical certificate applications from pilots and air traffic control (ATC) specialists who have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As long as the pilot or ATC specialist is otherwise qualified, an AME can issue a medical certificate when the person who: had a confirmed case of COVID-19 has fully recovered and was asymptomatic or had a mild infection; had a prolonged infection but was not hospitalized; or was hospitalized but did not require intensive care.  For anyone who was hospitalized (but not in intensive care), the AME should forward any applicable records to the FAA after issuing the medical certificate.

Pilots or ATC specialists who were in intensive care or “are experiencing ongoing residual signs and/or symptoms of confirmed COVID-19” must have their applications deferred by the AMEs.  The ongoing signs and symptoms “may include, but are not limited to, cardiovascular dysfunction, respiratory abnormalities, kidney injury, neurological dysfunction, psychiatric conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, moodiness), or symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, arthralgia, or chest pain,” according to the guidance sent to AMEs. The AME is not allowed to issue the medical certificate in the office.  Instead, the AME must send the completed application and any other medical records to the FAA's Aerospace Medical Certification Division.  The FAA would then work directly with the pilot.

This guidance is important because it clarifies for AMEs how to handle medical applications that involve a history of COVID-19 among pilots and controllers.

“We appreciate the FAA’s scaled approach to granting medical certificates for pilots and air traffic control specialists who have had COVID-19,” said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon. “This guidance allows AMEs to issue medical certificates for the vast majority of pilots and controllers who have had COVID-19, requiring deferral in only the most severe cases.”