What Medical Conditions Disqualify You from Being a Pilot?

In order to attain your pilot’s license you need to pass the FAA (Federal Aviation Academy) medical examination.

Commercial pilots will undergo physical examinations either once a year for under 40s or every six months for over 40s.

Unfortunately, there are some medical conditions that disqualify you from being a pilot and others will require you to undergo further examinations in order to receive a special certificate.

Below is a list of some of the most common medical conditions that will automatically disqualify you from being a pilot:

  • Bipolar disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Permanent cardiac pacemaker
  • Cardiac valve replacement
  • Psychosis
  • Heart replacement
  • Severe personality disorder
  • Substance abuse/dependency

Medical advisers will use their discretion when deciding whether someone is considered ‘fit’ to fly so don’t lose hope if you suffer from a medical condition.

If you are on an effective treatment method that is managed and does not affect your ability to carry out your pilot duties, you could receive a special certification, enabling you to get your pilots license.

In terms of mental medical conditions, there is a degree of leeway and discretion when determining if a pilot is eligible to pass their medical examination.
After all, working as a pilot over an often 35+ year career can put a lot of strain on someone's mental wellbeing.

Irregular sleeping and eating patterns can severely affect a persons mood and overall health. Plus, the stress of turbulent flights and having the lives of lots of other people in your hands can certainly take its toll.

Moreover, pilots are humans, not machines so, there will be external factors that may affect their mental health as well.

So, pilots will be expected to struggle with poor mental health at times and will be offered the necessary support and resources to deal with it.

However, in order to pass the FAA medical examination you will have to disclose any pre-existing mental health conditions and whether you are taking medication to treat them. Depending on what you are dealing with, you may be excluded from flying or be required to go through much more vigorous tests to prove you are safe to operate an aircraft.

As well as health complications, factors such as your eyesight also come into consideration. While pilots who require glasses or contact lenses in order to fly are fine to fly, there are other eye conditions that could prohibit you from being a pilot.

For example, pilots will be tested for colorblindness. Severe colorblindness could stop you from being able to fly or restrict you to flying only during the day. You may even have to go through extra training.

Can pilots have dyslexia?

As part of pilot training, you will be required to complete a certain amount of written work. Dyslexia is a long-term disability that can affect someone’s ability to carry out every day tasks such as writing and reading.

So, if you are diagnosed with dyslexia, but you are able to successfully complete this work and demonstrate the level of writing and reading skills required to safely fly a plane, your condition shouldn’t affect your ability to be a pilot.

Unfortunately, if you are not able to complete the work without any additional support, you will not be able to complete your pilot training and there is little leeway in the decision process.

With most careers, employers will be required to make adjustments for applicants who are diagnosed with dyslexia and require extra support in certain aspects of the job. However, this is not the case when it comes to safety.

Sufficient writing and reading skills are a necessity for pilots because they need to be able to read weather repots, checklists and other charts or communications.

Do you have to be physically fit to be a pilot?

A pilot must be considered physically fit in order to pass their medical examinations, this includes checking for medical conditions that would hinder their ability to safely operate a plane.

A pilots physical fitness, in terms of stamina or how muscular they are, is not considered as important to the safety of his or her passengers as their overall health. However, a pilot should be considered reasonably fit and he or she would be required to be of a certain height, weight and BMI in order to operate a plane properly.

For example, they must be tall enough to reach all the controls and fully see outside the windshield. They also need to be fit enough to drive a car, although they need not be muscular as long as they have a BMI of 17 to 25.

If their BMI is above this, it will only be wavered if the excess weight is due to muscles rather than fat deposits.