Medical Deferral Times
Answered By AOPA

Just FYI.  Time frame for medical deferral review is looking to be about 6 weeks.

I received the medical deferral letter from the FAA.  My initial AME application was deferred on 1/7/22, and I received the letter today, 2/16/22.  So almost 6 weeks for the FAA to review and send out a letter.  Hopefully I can get everything together for them next week.  If I can't get a special issuance, then my dreams of flying will die in short order.

There is one bit of information that the FAA wants, that I will not be able to get.  Court records from a reckless driving ticket back in 2003.  Hopefully the FAA will accept a letter from the court clerk that all documents from that case have been destroyed, as per the court's standard 10 year records retention process.

67 Replies
AOPA Staff Answer

This is a follow-up to the comments on the FAA wait times. For prospective purposes here is some insight into the FAA decision making processes.

      No two applications are alike, thus the time frame for which it takes to receive a medical certificate from the FAA will differ. What we can say is that once documents are received and scanned into the FAA database. From that point if additional items are needed it can take upwards of 4-6 weeks for a pilot to receive a letter from the FAA requesting this additional information. Once the requested items are returned to the FAA, they again go through the scanning process and the document is reviewed. Sometimes this newly submitted information will result in the FAA requesting even more. Thus, starting the process of obtaining, scanning and reviewing of those documents. From the time that the FAA has ALL the documents that they need to make a decision, then the said time clock begins. 

                For those cases that are uncomplicated, 1st class applications take on average 1-2 months for a decision, 2nd class is 2-3 months and 3rd class can be 3-4 months. For those cases that are complicated, that may require a specialist to review them or even for those cases that require decision by the Federal Air Surgeons office in Washington D.C., that timeline is extended. Some of these cases can take upwards of a year from the time the FAA has received the most recent documents that have been submitted.

While there is no way to expedite this process there are things the airmen can do that can help. The first being to follow the FAA letters to the “T”, provide exactly what they are requesting, nothing more and nothing less. Be sure to include your name, DOB and PI# if available on every piece of paper that is submitted (of course be sure to keep copies for your own records). And keep the lines of communication open with the FAA. If you are not able to make the due date, send them a letter advising them of this and request an extension. More often than not the FAA will issue a medical certificate, we just need to be patient and wait out the process. Once issued and any health issues have been addressed, future medical certificate renewals will likely not be as complicated.  

1629 Posts

Daniel Bissell: 

If I can't get a special issuance, then my dreams of flying will die in short order.

If there's a lesson here, it is this: Do NOT apply for a medical certificate when you know a Special Issuance will be required unless you know from consultation with an expert that the SI is possible, because a denial closes the door to the option for Sport Pilot on a driver's license.


True enough about the sport license, but my career is Risk Management.  If I can't convince the FAA that I should be allowed to fly, then for me, I will have to agree with their assessment.  They are the experts and I respect the FAAs safety standards.

If there is a significant probability that I could be a danger to others, then I would not feel comfortable flying solo.  Endangering the general public is not an acceptable risk to take.  Also, there are cheaper hobbies out there.  If this doesn't work out, I will just find something else fun to do.


Daniel, I’m interested in learning what happens after your first response from the FAA.  My medical was deferred yesterday and AOPA told me the response time is 3-4 months! I am hoping for a timeline like yours.


I will let you know as soon as I get a response from the FAA.  I figure it will be 2 months or so.  They received my packet on March 2nd.  Once 60 days has passed, I will give them a call to check on the status and update this thread.


Watching:  As I did my physical on 2/28 as of this posting, I still have not received my initial letter after my physical.  

update 5/30/22:   About the 1st week in May had to call FAA and within a week they sent out the letter asking for my medical information.  It took me a week to prep the information and Sent to FAA priority mail.  On the 26 I went into medexpress and it stated the decision was for a class 1 medical.  I am just waiting for the medical certificate to come in the mail now.