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Compliance with pilot medical requirements can be issue in aircraft crash cases, P.1

A New York man who died in a plane crash in Vermont back in December was unfit to fly, according to public records. The crash, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report, found that the plane engine experienced some sort of failure before the plane went down. The pilot had only been about 150 feet in the air at the time of the engine failure.

Investigations did not show that medical problems, or that any error on his part, caused the crash. The pilot was, however, in violation of a federal law requiring him to renew his medical certification at the time of the crash. The certificate ensures, among other things, that pilots have adequate hearing and vision to fly so that they don’t put themselves or others at risk. Fortunately, nobody else was on the plan at the time of the crash.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a medical certificate is necessary to fly solo in airplanes, helicopters, gyroplanes and airships, but not necessary to pilot balloons or gliders. The latter only require a written statement certifying that there is no medical conditions that would present an obstacle for the pilot. A physical disability does not necessarily foreclose the possibility of medical certification, but it depends on the nature of the disability.  

Certain types of medical conditions are listed by the FAA as disqualifying conditions. These include conditions like: biopolar disease; cardiac valve replacement; coronary heart disease, substance abuse; heart replacement; and epilepsy. Those who have had episodes of disturbance of consciousness or transient loss of control of nervous system without adequate explanation as to the cause can also be barred from medical certification due to the risk of causing an accident.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic.


Federal Aviation Administration, “Become a Pilot: Medical Certificate Requirements,” Accessed Jan. 30, 2017.

Federal Aviation Administration, “Pilot Medical Certification Questions and Answers,” Accessed Jan. 30, 2017.

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