In order to fly, flight students to commercial airline pilots must have periodic Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical exams, and they look to Middlesex Health to help them meet that requirement.
Middlesex Health Occupational and Environmental Medicine conducted more than 200 FAA exams over the past year, helping many Connecticut residents get or keep their pilot licenses.
“In occupational medicine, we don’t always have patients that we see regularly,” says Dr. Matthew Lundquist, medical director of Middlesex Health Occupational & Environmental Medicine and Employee Health Services. “Many times, we’ll see a patient for a single injury and then may never see that person again, similar to an urgent care office. With FAA exams, I get to form a more longitudinal relationship over many years with my pilots, which is very rewarding.”
These exams are similar to routine medical exams that you would get through your primary provider. However, the focus is not just on your general health. A FAA aviation medical examiner is trained to identify conditions, such as seizures, that could potentially impair a pilot’s ability to safely operate an aircraft. Chronic conditions that are not appropriately managed, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can also impact a pilot’s ability to fly safely.
Dr. Lundquist says a pilot that has routine medical conditions that are well-controlled and under a doctor’s care may be cleared to fly as long as specific criteria are met. When there are certain medical conditions, or in situations in which it is not as clear if a particular condition makes it safe to fly, pilots must be referred directly to the FAA after their medical exam. The FAA will then contact the pilot to get information from their treating physicians before making a final decision about whether to grant or renew a license.
Medical exam requirements differ based on what type of pilot you are. For example, class I pilots—airline pilots and pilots of larger commercial aircrafts—must get an electrocardiogram at age 35 and then annually beginning at age 40. Class III pilots, such as private, student and recreational pilots, have less strict vision requirements than class I and class II (commercial, for-hire) pilots. There are also some differences in how medical conditions are evaluated.
Throughout Connecticut, there are several licensed physicians who are specifically trained to perform FAA exams for class II and class III pilots. However, there are few senior aviation medical examiners who have the experience required to perform class I exams. This makes Middlesex Health a unique resource for pilots because both Dr. Lundquist and Dr. Thomas Danyliw are senior aviation medical examiners.
Being a senior aviation medical examiner is a unique experience — one that Dr. Lundquist enjoys.
“Pilots, as you can imagine, are very well traveled and have many interesting stories of where they’ve gone and what they are next planning to do,” he says. “Meeting all of these interesting pilots has certainly piqued my interest in learning to fly someday!”
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