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What happens during a pilot’s medical exam?

Introduction

Today was the day that always makes me nervous. It was time for my class 1 medical checkup. Pilots are a unique breed. They’re high-flying, fast-paced and have to be fit as a fiddle. That’s why the pilot medical is so important. But what actually happens during a pilot’s medical exam?

The CAA and Cellma

This is a recent change that happened a few years ago. The CAA introduced Cellma. And as is the way with most things to do with the CAA, its possibly one of the most complicated things to understand. 

First of all, you’ll need to head over to your CAA portal at https://portal.caa.co.uk. This is the same portal you’ll use throughout your training to book exams etc. Once logged in, you’ll have to head over to “Your Services” and then “Medical”.

After going through the 2 factor authentication screen, you’ll be presented with a list of medicals to apply for. Assuming you’re a commerical pilot, despite the fact you already have one, you’ll need to click “Apply for a class 1/3 Med Cert” (Be sure not to accidently click the “Apply for a class 1 med cert (Flt Eng/Nav))

Now comes the “fun” part. After accepting the terms and conditions, you’ll be presented with a fairly badly laid out form. Simply go through each section and answer each question honestly. Don’t worry if you accidentlly fill out a section incorrectly, your AME will be able to update this during the actual medical for you.

After paying the CAA the pricely sum of £15, this part is finally over!

Urine Test

The first thing the AME will most likely do, is to get you to go and pee into a cup. You’ll normally be asked to do this whilst the AME sets up the rest of the tests. They’ll then check the urine with a test strip. This is to check for any protein or blood, as well as to check whether or not you could be diabetic

Medical History

The AME will ask you about your medical history, focusing in particular on any changes since your last report. If you have a condition that is not listed on the form, you should mention it.

Some of these questions may seem intrusive or irrelevant to your life as a pilot but are actually important to make sure that you’re fit for flying duties.

The CAA has also recently introduced a new section to this, all about your mental wellbeing. You’ll be asked a number of questions about any stressors in your life, as well as your eating and sleeping habits.

During this part of the exam, you’ll also be asked for your license and ID, so they can be updated on the system

Hearing Test

A hearing test is a simple way to see if your ears are up to snuff. You’ll be asked to listen to cover up one of your ears at a time, the AME will stand behind you and whisper a number or phrase and you’ll be asked to repeat it. If you can hear the numbers, great! That means your hearing is fine and you’re all set.

Eye Test

As you’re probably aware, the cockpit is a pretty small place to be. There’s a lot of lights and a lot of small writing. So understandably, it’s an issue if you have poor eyesight.

The eye test will begin with the AME shining an instrument into your eyes to check to see how it reflects off the retina at the back of your eye. Next, they’ll ask you to cover up each eye individually and they will wiggle their fingers on the edge of your vision, once you can see them wiggling let the AME know. Next, the will ask you to follow their fingers with your eyes and without moving your head. After this, you’ll be given a book of random extracts, and asked to read specific lines at specific font sizes. Finally, you’ll be asked to cover each eye individually and read the smallest line of letters you can from the Snellen chart (The board with the letters on that all opticians use!)

Don’t worry if you don’t pass this part of the test. There are further tests that can be done, and you may be asked to go and see an optician and get some glasses.

Height and Weight

If you’ve ever been to the doctor, you know the drill. The AME will measure your height and weight, and calculate your BMI (body mass index). Your height is measured in centimetres and your weight is measured in kilograms. The AME will record your BMI onto the system.

Whilst there’s no offical lower limit, if you’re drasticlally underweight, this could be the sign of a much larger issue. The upper limit before needing further testing is a BMI of 35

The Physical Exam

If you’ve ever been to the doctor, you know the drill. The AME will measure your height and weight, and calculate your BMI (body mass index). Your height is measured in centimetres and your weight is measured in kilograms. The AME will record your BMI in the system.

Whilst there’s no official lower limit, if you’re drastically underweight, this could be the sign of a much larger issue. The upper limit before needing further testing is a BMI of 35

Blood Tests

The AME will test your blood pressure. Make sure you let them know if you’re under any sort of stress as this can seriously affect the results.

A haemoglobin test is performed to check iron levels are normal, and that there is no sign of anaemia.

Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. If you have too little haemoglobin, it can lead to symptoms such as tiredness and headaches. Anaemia is a condition where there are too few red blood cells or they don’t work properly.

All done!

Assuming you’ve passed everything, then that’s it. The test is over and you can relax. The AME will finish up the paperwork. Take payment from you and print off your new certificate. MAKE SURE YOU SIGN IT.

what happen's during a pilot's medical exam

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