Class 1 Special Issuance
Votes
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. 
17 Replies
Votes
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! 
Votes
Depends on what it says on the certificate.  I hold a Special Issuance Second Class due to Type 2 diabetes.  The FAA wants annual reports on this, so they marked it "Not valid for any class after [one year from the original exam date]" in the Limitations block. Does yours have a similar restriction?  If so, it will degrade to Second Class in six months and be invalid after that date.  If not, then it degrades on the "standard" schedule.
Votes
Unfortunately my medical does have the statement "not valid for any class after ____." Well looks like I better play the game of going to doctors offices while the COVID 19 stuff is going on.

I appreciate the response 👍

 
Votes
Steve,

Special Issuances do not downgrade. They are only issued for the class that you have applied for. The authorizations are usually only valid for one year and require annual documentation to renew. If you have any other questions please give us a call here at 1-800-872-2672.
Votes
Boomer At AOPA:
Steve,

Special Issuances do not downgrade. They are only issued for the class that you have applied for.

A First Class Special Issuance is only valid as First Class for six months.  If that "not valid after" date is only six months from the exam date, then yes, it's no good for anything after six months.  But if the "not valid for any class after" date is the typical SI one year, it's still good as a Second Class for another six months, after which it's invalid even as a Third.   Read what it says on the certificate!

Votes
A first class can be issued where they are only required to supply information once a year.  However, it can't downgrade to a lower class, as that would invalidate the restriction on the certificate.
Votes
Boomer At AOPA:
A first class can be issued where they are only required to supply information once a year.  However, it can't downgrade to a lower class, as that would invalidate the restriction on the certificate.

Sorry -- I was living in my over-40 world.  Yes, if you're under 40 when you get the SI First Class with a one-year limit, it remains valid for First Class privileges for the full 12 months.  However, for old farts like me (i.e., over 40 when we take the exam), it's only valid for First Class (ATP) operating privileges for six months.  After that, even though it's still technically a First Class medical certificate, it's good only for Second Class (Commercial) operating privileges for the next six months.  Either way, after 12 months, that 12-month-limit SI medical turns into a pumpkin.  See the table in 14 CFR 61.23(d) for details.

Votes
It still would not downgrade to a 2nd class after the first six months. After the first six months he would still need to have a new physical for a 1st class medical. He still would only need to provide the Special Issuance requirements on an annual basis. 
Votes
Boomer At AOPA:
It still would not downgrade to a 2nd class after the first six months. After the first six months he would still need to have a new physical for a 1st class medical. He still would only need to provide the Special Issuance requirements on an annual basis. 

I think you should review 61.23(d).  Unless that SI First Class says "Not valid for any class after [six months]"...

  • For an under-40, it remains valid for ATP privileges for a full 12 months without a new physical.
  • For an over-40, it is valid for ATP privileges for six months only, but remains valid for Commercial privileges for another six months without further ado, although a new exam and First Class issuance would be required to keep exercising ATP privileges for the second six months.
Since Steve is in a collegiate pilot training program, he needs only Third Class privileges for his flight training, so an SI First Class that says "Not valid for any class after [12 months]" would do him fine for the full 12 months regardless of his age.

Or do you have written FAA guidance which overrides 61.23(d) on this matter?

BTW, I hope we're not just quibbling over semantics.  Yes, a First Class medical certificate is still a First Class medical certificate no matter how old it is.  Time doesn't change that paper into a Second or Third Class certificate.  However, the pilot privileges which may be exercised on its basis do degrade with time according the schedule in 61.23(d).  As such, pilot over 40 at examination can only use a First Class medical certificate for 6 calendar months to exercise ATP privileges, but can still use that certificate to exercise Commercial privileges for another six months without any further exam or issuance.  Likewise, a pilot under 40 at examination can (unless there's an additional limitation, like the one under discussion), can use a First Class medical certificate for ATP or Commercial privileges for 12 months, and then for Private privileges all the way out to 60 months.  Again, it's still a First Class certificate, although the privileges which may be exercised on its basis degrade with time.
Votes
I appreciate all the responses and currently have booked my first appointment to get started on the required reports that I need. The fact that SIs do not downgrade is a little unfortunate, as it will cost me more money getting reports every year. The costs are always still better than not flying at all though! 😎