Class 1 Special Issuance
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Answered By AOPA
Long story short, my four year college has a rule in the handbook that says students need to have a Class 1 Medical before starting any flight training. This is so people know early on they are not disqualified from becoming an ATP. I also had some minor medical problems from the military.

Anyway, I ended up getting a Special Issuance Class 1 after some paperwork back and forth with the FAA. My question is does a Special Issuance degrade the same way as a "standard" issued license does? I do not need a Class 1 right now and I am wondering if I can just let it downgrade to a Class 2 (eventually to a Class 3) without any repercussions. 
22 Replies
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AOPA Staff Answer
A special issuance authorization is discretionary and effectively changes in some respects the duration of any class of medical certificate. A first class medical certificate for an application age 40 and over is valid for six calendar months.  However, if that certificate is issued under a Special Issuance Authorization, FAR 67.401, the medical certificate does NOT lapse to a 2nd class after six months.  The medical certificate will state "Not Valid for Any Class after (xxx date.)
Most Authorizations are valid for 12 months or so.  I say "or so" because the first time the FAA reviews medical records for special issuance, it takes MANY months for the case to be resolved.  (That's another discussion, totally!), That airman who is maintaining a first class for ATP privileges or because of employer requirements would still return to the AME for another First Class physical after six months, and the AME would be authorized to reissue a new certificate valid for another six months if the application is otherwise qualified and is complying with all the requirements of the Authorization. 

For second and third class, normally valid for 12, 24, or 60 months, depending upon age, the one year authorization will coincide with the month of examination and the required follow up reports will be due after twelve months,  The difference being that the first class pilot will get to go to the AME after the first six months and will be reissued but won't have to provide any specialty reports until the NEXT exam, 12 months after the special issuance is granted.

The key point is that the medical issued under an Authorization does NOT lapse to the lower class as does a "regular" medical issued under the other sections of Part 67 and 61.23.  The Authorization is a discretionary issuance and subject to any restrictions or limitations explained in the Authorization letter.
The FAA doesn't always do a great job of explaining the requirements and limitations of an Authorization in the letter that accompanies the medical certificate, but after two or three close, careful reads of the letter, it makes more sense.
Sorry for the hefty response, but context is always important! 
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Yep, I know.  Considering doing some commercial flights for a part 135.  Have to decide if a 2nd class medical is worth the trouble.
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If you're going to work as a pilot, you'll need the Second Class when you go to work as a pilot.  However, you do NOT need it to train for, test for, and earn the Commercial.  Nor do you need it to get the CFI ticket or work as a flight instructor.  See 14 CFR 61.23(a)(3)(ii/iii).
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Ronald Levy:
The fundamental difference is that with the Second Class, a Commercial Pilot can get paid to fly, but with the Third Class, they can't.  See 61.113 and 61.133 for the details of what Commercial Pilot privileges are compared to Private Pilot privileges.  If you hold only a Private Pilot certificate, there is no difference at all.

Exactly.  Since I'm working on Commercial, I'm considering it.

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The fundamental difference is that with the Second Class, a Commercial Pilot can get paid to fly, but with the Third Class, they can't.  See 61.113 and 61.133 for the details of what Commercial Pilot privileges are compared to Private Pilot privileges.  If you hold only a Private Pilot certificate, there is no difference at all.
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Since a 2nd class is only good for 12 calendar months anyway, what's the difference between getting a 3rd class SI and a 2nd class SI for diabetes since in either case it's only going to be good for 12 calendar months?