Often, we are asked by prospective clients, “do I need an aviation lawyer for my FAA medical certificate?” This question usually comes from airmen who have spoken with an Aviation Medical Examiner (“AME”) before calling The Ison Law Firm. Without naming names, there are a handful of AMEs that constantly question why an airman would ever consider hiring a lawyer to address a medical concern with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”).

The aviation attorneys at The Ison Law Firm are an invaluable resource for combating the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Division when applying for medical certification. As much as an AME would like to think that his or her medical prowess can affect the outcome of an airman’s medical application, the fact remains that an AME’s role in the FAA medical certification process is limited to a small part. And while this small part may be useful downstream in the process, an airman will likely need the representation of a seasoned aviation medical certification lawyer should the airman’s medical application be deferred by the AME or denied by the FAA.

Whether you are a seasoned airman or are just beginning your journey in aviation, most airmen understand that the privilege of operating an aircraft comes with the responsibility of understanding countless Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”). In fact, interoffice jokes around the watercooler sometimes will fixate on how a pilot thinks he or she is a based on the shear volume of FARs that are required to be read and comprehended in order to fly. To that end, most airmen are aware that medical certification standards for the operation of aircraft are found at 14 C.F.R. Part 67. What is often lost in the nuance of the FARs, and certainly on some AMEs, is that the certification of airmen under 14 C.F.R. Part 67 is not entirely premised on just the practice of medicine. To the contrary, the certification of airman under Part 67 is first based upon regulation which, by its very nature, suggests the eventual application of law to facts. And this is where FAA medical lawyers are needed!

In a perfect world, an airman goes to an AME and the AME immediately issues the airman a medical certificate. However, in situations where the airman has a history of certain disqualifying conditions under Part 67, the AME will have to defer the airman’s medical application to the FAA. After deferring an application to the FAA, the AME has little control over the outcome of the matter. The airman will likely be left to navigate the nebulous and vague requests made by the FAA for additional information, costly testing, and possible denial, depending upon the specific disqualifying issue. What is an airman to do at that point? If this was just a medical process, the AME would be able to assist. However, by this point, it should be evident that the airman will need a FAA medical certification lawyer to navigate the FARs precluding his or her ability to obtain a medical certificate.

The aviation medical certification lawyers at The Ison Law Firm are experienced in handling all types of medical certification matters before the FAA after an AME defers an airman’s medical application. The AMEs that belittle the use of lawyers fail to appreciate the process beyond the flight physical. If an airman’s medical application is denied, then that airman will ultimately have the option to appeal the Federal Air Surgeon’s final denial to the National Transportation Board of Safety (“NTSB”). At the NTSB level, 49 U.S. Code § 44703 requires the airman to present evidence by a preponderance of the evidence, in accordance with the Federal Rules of Evidence. To that end, the litigation process leading up to the hearing will require the airman to understand the various Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as the airman engages in the discovery process and exchanges discovery with the Administrator, as well as the volumes of governing NTSB opinions.

So, why would an airman ever consider hiring an aviation attorney for a medical application? For starters, the documentation provided to the FAA and the statements made by an airman and the airman’s medical providers will form the basis for the evidence to be presented at a hearing in support of that airman’s qualifications to hold a medical certificate. In other words, knowing what to provide, when to provide it, and how to frame it, before litigation even begins, is incredibly important in the medical certification process. These are techniques and strategies best left to competent legal professionals, and not to be trusted to AMEs that think they know the law just because they are doctors that practice within the realm of aviation regulation.

If your AME questions why you would hire a lawyer for your medical application with the FAA or if you are asking yourself “do I need an aviation lawyer for my FAA medical certificate,” first call the lawyers at The Ison Law Firm.  We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.