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The EASA Class 1 medical can often cause stress and worry, but it need not had. I had some items that needed investigating during my initial class 1 EASA medical examination.
While I eventually received my CAA class 1 medical, the backwards and forwards to complete the process took several months. During that process, I seriously wondered if I would ever get my class 1 medical certificate (the level of medical required to fly professionally).
In this blog post, I will share some of the lessons I learnt during my experience to make the process easier for you when you come to your initial EASA class 1 medical.
What is a CAA Class 1 medical, and what are the EASA class 1 medical requirements?
If you want to fly professionally, then the minimum level of medical required is an EASA class 1 medical. If you are reading this, I guess, you are at the beginning of you your flight training journey and wondering where to start, perhaps you have completed a trial flight, got the flying bug and now want to progress things with your private pilot licence.
Pilot training is expensive enough, so before you start spending huge chunks of money, you need to be sure that nothing medically stops you from becoming a pilot. The first step then is to get your EASA class 1 medical. The class 1 medical examination will include:
- checks on your medical history
- verify you meet the necessary eyesight requirements
- A physical examination
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- A Lung function test
- Haemoglobin blood test
- Urine test
More detailed information on the CAA Class 1 medical is available here.
Where do I get an EASA Class 1 medical certificate?
Your initial class 1 medical has to be completed at dedicated CAA approved Aeromedical centres. I completed my medical at Centreline Aviation Medical Services in London.
I found them to be very good both at the initial consultation and subsequently, during the follow-up interactions we had to allow my class 1 medical certificate to be issued. Check with your local CAA for approved aeromedical centres.
An Aero Medical Examiner (AME) carries out medical assessments – a doctor who is allowed and able to check your fitness to be a pilot.
EASA Class 1 medical vs EASA class 2: What do you need?
It is worth mentioning that if you want to fly at PPL level only, then an EASA class 2 medical will be enough. In my case, I started with a class 2 medical for PPL, and once I was sure I wanted to fly professionally, I then went on to get a Class 1 medical.
The EASA class 2 medical costs around 30-40% less and is more forgiving in terms of the interval between checkups and less stringent than the EASA class 1 medical requirement.
EASA Class 1 medical renewal
A Class 1 medical is typically renewed annually (with the associated expense) although the Class 1 renewal/ revalidation interval can be shortened due to age or underlying conditions.
A Class 2 medical is more generous with renewal and revalidation intervals, and that again is driven by your age, health and any underlying health conditions.
What does the EASA Class 1 medical cost?
An EASA class 1 initial medical will cost around £600 in the UK.
What happens if I don’t pass my EASA Class 1 medical?
Most people do not realise, but many medicals are not issued on the same day that the assessment takes place. A medical delay is something you need to consider. e.g. Do not leave your class 1 medical right until a week before you are due to start flight training.
In my case, it took around four months for my initial Class 1 medical to be issued from my first appointment.
If there are any question marks during your examination that need to be followed up with additional documentation from your doctor, this takes time. Quite routinely, further tests may be necessary if the AME is not satisfied that you meet the CAA requirements for a particular area.
This is not necessarily a permanent rejection and that you cannot meet the Class 1 requirements; it could just be that further tests or information are required.
Resolving any issues found during EASA Class 1 medical
For those in the UK, if an issue is found during your medical and you need to be referred to a specialist, one of the things that worked well for me was that I had private medical insurance at the time.
I went to my GP, advised what the issue was and obtained a referral to go private. The problem for me was an anomaly with my blood pressure requiring me to be monitored over 24 hours. I had the monitoring undertaken, and the report submitted to my AME.
The wait time on the NHS was around 16 weeks but was available the next day privately! The results showed there was nothing amiss, and my Class 1 medical was subsequently issued. All this takes time, so do not leave your medical examination to the last minute if at all possible.
In my case, already having a class 2 medical meant that I could continue flying in the months that my class 1 was pending. It was not until I had completed my PPL, and in the early stages of hour building and ATPL exams, I decided to get my class 1 initial.
How to prepare for you EASA Class 1 medical?
You can take steps to prepare for your medical: If you have underlying conditions, it is worth bringing them to the attention of the AME when you book your medical before your appointment.
The more open and transparent you are, the easier and quicker the process is for everyone involved. Your AME may request additional documentation before your meeting, which will save you time in the long run.
If you have not had your eyes tested in a while (most people don’t), many opticians offer free eye test. Get your eyes tested before your Class 1 or Class 2 medical appointment. Similarly, if your ears are like mine and tend to have wax build-up over time, visit your GP to have them checked and if necessary, cleaned before your examination.
Avoid heavy drinking in the days before your medical. The effect of alcohol consumed even days before can have negative effects on tests – if you have your best friends wedding on Saturday for example, don’t book your medical for the following Monday morning at 8 AM!
Be well rested and try to eat normally avoiding too much coffee and energy drinks just before your medical. The final part is, don’t worry. The medical can be stressful, but try to relax.
Ultimately, the AME wants to issue you with your medical, so try to make that task as easy for them as possible by doing what you can to prepare beforehand and taking a common-sense approach in looking after your body.
The goal at the end of the day is to protect the general public and make sure whoever is at the controls of the aircraft is healthy and fit to do so.
What happens if I fail the class 1 medical?
If you fail your medical, not all hope is lost. The AME will explain why and advise what the next steps would be. Suppose, unfortunately, a medical reason permanently stops you from passing a Class 1 or Class 2 medical, and you still have a burning desire to fly.
In that case, it may be worth investigating other flying options that do not require you to have a Class 1 or Class 2 medical such as LAPL medical/ LAPL PPL. A LAPL PPL is a recreational PPL licence, so you won’t be able to fly professionally.
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I wish you the best of luck with your medical. Please leave a comment in the section below with any tips and pointers or if I have missed anything.
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 captain with over 3,000 hours of flying in Europe. He holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, is a chartered engineer, and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self-funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.