How Is an FAA Medical Exam Different From an Annual Physical?

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How Is an FAA Medical Exam Different From an Annual Physical?

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical exams are required for anyone who wants to pilot or operate a motorized aircraft. These exams are geared toward ensuring that the pilot is healthy enough to operate the craft, with the goal of reducing safety risks for the pilot and anyone else on board, as well as the general public.

Some people mistakenly believe an annual physical can serve the same purpose, but actually, the two exams differ in some important ways. As a skilled and trusted provider of FAA medical exams for women and men in Lakeland,Florida, Sergio B. Seoane, MD, offers the following overview of how the two exams differ.

FAA exams: The basics

FAA exams include special evaluations aimed at ensuring a pilot is healthy enough to operate an aircraft. Because of the special nature of the exams, they need to be performed by a doctor (like Dr. Seoane) who has met specific requirements designated by the FAA. 

During your exam, Dr. Seoane records your height and weight and evaluates your blood pressure, your pulse, and other vital signs. Next, he completes a modified physical exam, checking aspects of your health that have a direct bearing on your activities as a pilot.

He checks your vision and hearing, evaluates your heart and lung health, and orders blood tests, when needed, to assess any underlying medical conditions you may have. At the end of your exam, he completes the paperwork required by the FAA. If you don’t meet the requirements set forth by the agency, he can help you take steps to correct issues, like vision or hearing problems or high blood pressure, for example.

FAA exam vs. annual physical

While an FAA exam can only be performed by doctors with special certification, an annual physical can be performed by many types of doctors, including family doctors, general practitioners, internists (for adults), and pediatricians (for kids).

Annual physicals are intended to assess your overall health and wellness, so they’re more comprehensive and inclusive than a specialty exam like the FAA exam. While an FAA exam focuses on the specific skills and risks associated with piloting, annual exams take a more generalized approach.

During an annual physical, Dr. Seoane considers your health history, your lifestyle, your age, and other risk factors to determine which evaluations are appropriate for you. He also prescribes lab tests, like urinalysis or blood work, to assess physiological parameters. After your exam, he may prescribe additional tests or evaluations and provide lifestyle guidance to help you stay healthy.

An FAA medical exam is required for anyone who wants to obtain or maintain FAA licensure, but it’s definitely not a substitute for the more comprehensive annual physical exam. Even if you have an FAA exam this year, you still need to schedule your annual physical to ensure you have the evaluations and tests necessary to keep you healthy, especially as you get older. 

Schedule your FAA exam today

No matter what type of physical you need, our office has you covered. If you need to schedule an FAA exam or if it’s time for your regular physical, call 863-644-2204 or request an appointment online with Dr. Seoane today.