Warning, Rant coming.
So in order to become a Private Pilot in the United States, you’ll need to obtain your 3rd Class Medical Certificate and Student Pilot Ticket. That isn’t to say that in order to fly you’ll need these things, but in order to become a Private Pilot and exercise all the privileges that come along with that, you’ll need one.
Your 3rd Class Medical serves as your Student Pilot’s License (ticket). Recreational and Sport Pilots are not required to have a 3rd Class Medical Certificate, but they are severely restricted in what types of aircraft they can fly and are restricted as to where and when (day or night) they can fly. So my goal is to get my Private Pilot’s license which requires my 3rd class. My instructor cannot solo me until after I’ve received my 3rd Class.
Back in March I met with my general practitioner who also happens to be an FAA certified AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) for a quick visit to see if he foresaw any issues with my being granted my 3rd class. He didn’t. He was wrong.
I scheduled my appointment for my 3rd Class Physical and everything was going well. EEG, eye exam, mobility, everything. He was just about done and feeling around on my abdomen and said (when he felt a lump) “Do you know what this is?” to which I replied “Yes Doctor **** I do, it’s the port for my Lap Band”. (If you’ve read my about page, you’ll know I had one installed in 2009 and he should have remembered, but did not). “OH! We’ll need to defer your 3rd class to the FAA then”.
Normally if everything goes well, the doctor issues your 3rd class right there in the office and you walk out an official Student Pilot. I did not.
Two weeks later I get a letter from the FAA that basically states they need all the medical records from my Lap Band surgery. No problem, I call the hospital and they send over all 65 pages within a day or so. They (FAA) also state that they need a letter from my treating physician with regards to the current status of my Lap Band and annotating any complications. Problem. One of the two surgeons who performed my surgery is now in San Jose, CA and the other has apparently disappeared off the face of the earth.
I finally get my doctor to get the surgeon in San Jose to return a phone call and he says he can’t write the letter because he hasn’t seen me in two years. Fair enough. He recommends I go back to the Weight Loss Surgery Center to see someone there and have them write the letter. So I do that and I talk to the ARNP that’s been on staff since before my surgery. She decides she can write the letter only after I have an Upper GI examination. Fine. Send me for that test and we’ll go from there. The Upper GI is scheduled a week later and it’s of course fine. She writes the letter. I send everything to the FAA. And wait.
This whole time I’ve been flying and logging flight time. As I mentioned before you can fly without it, you just cannot solo (On the path to Private Pilot). So I logged about 10 hours of dual time with my instructor.
About a week later I get another letter from the FAA stating that now that they’ve reviewed my medical records, they need more information about my “Depression”, “Anxiety”, “Back Pain” and “Sleep Apnea”. Three out of four of those I have no idea what they’re talking about. So back to the ARNP I go.
According to her, the surgeon that did my surgery probably asked me questions like “Are you sad that you’re overweight?” or “Does it make you anxious when you’re in a group of people that are thinner?” or “Do you ever have back pain?” to which I probably answered yes. So he checked the boxes “Depression”, “Anxiety” and “Back Pain” as to why I was getting my Lap Band. Probably some insurance thing. To be clear I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with depression, anxiety or back pain.
Now Sleep Apnea, up until my surgery I was sleeping (not very well I might add) with a BiPap machine. I had been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Since I’ve lost nearly 70 pounds with my Lap Band, I’ve not used my BiPap machine once. Unfortunately the FAA will not allow me to have a doctor write a note that says “He doesn’t use his machine because he doesn’t think he needs it anymore.” So I had her refer me to the sleep disorder center. I have an appointment next Monday for another sleep study.
I figured if you can’t fight them join them right? So I may as well get ahead of them, or try to? Since I can’t at this time prove I do or don’t have sleep apnea, I may as well get the test, get the results and if I have to go back on the machine have a couple weeks of data FROM said machine to send back with the letter stating I don’t have anxiety, depression or back pain right?
I’m hopeful this is the last round with the FAA. I’m hoping the next certified letter I get from them has my Student Pilot Certificate and 3rd Class Medical enclosed.