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In order to exercise their flying privileges, all pilots must undergo a routine medical examination conducted at regular intervals by an FAA-approved Aviation Medical Examiner. Upon satisfactory completion of the examination the pilot will be issued an FAA Medical Certificate that must be carried on their person at all times when acting as pilot in command of an aircraft. Three distinct classes of medical certificates exist: First Class, Second Class, and Third Class. Which class of medical to obtain depends on what type of operation the individual pilot will be conducting:
First Class: Air Carrier Pilots
Second Class: Commercial Pilots
Third Class: General Aviation Pilots (non-commercial)
While a person may begin flight training without a medical certificate, no student pilot may solo an aircraft unless they hold at least a valid Third Class Medical certificate. It is strongly recommended, however, that a student pilot obtain the certificate as soon as possible after committing to formal lessons. The reasoning behind this is to make sure that, before investing heavily in flight training, no medical issues may preclude a student pilot from eventually obtaining their license.
If you’d like to search for an Aviation Medical Examiner, you may do so by clicking on the following link: FAA AME Locator.