All I want for Xmas is for the FAA to approve my medical status

Can anyone relate to this? I had my medical exam back in September and had to defer to the FAA because of two medications I take on a daily basis. They said it would probably take two months to hear whether or not I’ve been approved and can proceed with my dream of flying, or if I have to appeal. Here I am four months later. Does anybody have recommendations and/or contact information that may help speed along this process?

Any input would be greatly appreciated, even if it’s just saying, “hey, I’m right there with you!” It’s stressful and frustrating because I take medication to help keep my life on track, instead of turning to say, substance abuse, but it may be holding me back from my dream job. Thanks. - Anne

Hey Anne,

I am also waiting for my deferral but my problem is more complicated than yours so I might just give it more patience.

I do have something for you though, and you might also want to do some research on FAA’s site.

  1. You can contact (405) 954-4821for status inquiry, as it’s published on:

  2. According to the following publication
    “Give us an adequate amount of time to process your application. If you call or write to find out the status of your application, your file will have to be located and taken out of line to answer the inquiry. This will further delay its processing. On the other hand, if you haven’t heard from us within 60 days, you may call us at the number listed below for an update.”

So in your case, you should call them today to ask about the status of your application.

  1. Have you tried AOPA? If you are a member of AOPA, they can help you with the inquiry and sometimes it speeds things up a bit. It kinda worked when I applied for my third class medical last summer as I heard back from FAA very soon after AOPA sent out inquiry. But I remember I also waited for about 3 months in total so I am not sure if it’s really due to AOPA. My AME somehow doesn’t recommend AOPA, but you can give it a try.


I can tell you that if you are taking medication to help keep you away from substance abuse, there is a very real chance that the FAA will not approve your medical. The FAA takes mental disorders very seriously, I would recommend reaching out directly to the FAA or to your AME.


I agree with Chris that FAA treats mental health very seriously. But they also gave out 265 special issuances for SSRI anti-depressant in 2017, and 115 of them are for 1st class.
I think it’s a good thing that you got your mental health taken care of, so don’t give up the hope on the medical certificate. It’s not easy but if your follow their direction (it might costs you a few psychiatric evaluations), they will give it to you eventually.

Chris and other mentors, can you share with us how airlines treat pilots with mental health issues? For example, if a pilot has a special issuance for SSRI anti-depressant, will he face any problem at the interview?


First off most airlines send their potential newhires for a psych eval so mental health will obviously come into play. Beyond that I have to be honest, I’ve participated in hiring at 2 airlines and I’ve never encountered an applicant with a special issuance. Now whether that’s because they never got past the initial application or not I honestly couldn’t say? What I can tell you is I’m willing to bet of the 115 First Class SIs you mention, a good portion were for pilots who were ALREADY employed at the airlines vs first time applicants.


Hey, I’m right there with you!!!

I’ve had my medical exam back in September while I was vacationing in Germany. My application has also been deferred to the FAA for special issuance because I have sleep apnea. I have also reached a point of frustration as I am awaiting to start a training program as well.

For the interim, I have been contacting the FAA weekly to get a status update. When I received my letter of paperwork I needed to submit, I called and the FAA gave me a fax number to submit my paperwork. Today, I called again and I was informed that all my sleep apnea paperwork has been added to my file and I should hear by the end of the week. (fingers crossed) So I recommend to just keep contacting the FAA to check your status and communicate with the operators.

Finally, can the mentors tell me if the airlines are okay with hiring a pilot that has a special issuance and sleep apnea?

Thank you

Thank you so very much for your response Ian! This is extremely helpful and thoughtful of you to reach out! I appreciate it greatly.


I do not know of anybody who has a special issuance, but people do not exactly advertise these things either. I would call the recruiting departments of several regionals and ask them.


Chris. Thank you, I appreciate your response and feedback. I am not saying if I didn’t have medication I would certainly be abusing substances, in fact I would probably be fine, just a little more sad. I am trying to say that if I can pass all the tests the same as anyone else, and even if I had to take a ‘psychiatric’ exam, and could pass, I don’t see why someone with a history of minor mental illness should necessarily be banned. I know pilots who have mental disorders who had to stop their medications in order to fly, and they are great pilots. On the flip side, I know of pilots who bury themselves in alcohol on their off time, which in my opinion isn’t a healthy alternative. Medication is for many a way to make your day feel just as easy, or even, with someone who has zero mental health problems in their blood/family. And it’s a large portion of the population who is affected by it. I think it would be great if the FAA would consider us, and let us at least try to prove our worth! That’s all.

Thank you for the feedback, Adam!

Thank you, Chris!

Thank you for your response Enrique! It helps to know that I am not alone in this. I really hope everything works out and you get that special issuance! Best wishes!

Thank you for your feedback! I especially like your question about problems in the hiring section. If I do happen to get approved by the FAA, it would be important to consider how a special issuance could affect (or not affect) the hiring process. Thanks again!

Hi Anne,

I also read about another case where the pilot stopped SSRI for 3 months before applying, got deferred, and received psychiatric evaluation. He then got diagnosed with dysthymia, and because of the reoccurring nature, FAA actually wanted him to stay on the medication and go through the SSRI protocol. He eventually got his medical. I guess you never know what can happen but there is always a solution out there :grinning:

Light at the end of the tunnel! Thank you for your encouraging words! Again, I really appreciate it! Best, -Anne


The FAA is notoriously slow. I’ve had to deal with them in the past. Only thing you can do is follow their instructions (if any were given), follow up on the status and be patient.


The medical process can be frustrating! While I can’t relate to your particular medical issue, I do have a special issuance medical. The entire process took me about 4 months for my initial 1st class SI.

As my original ATP class was quickly approaching and I had exhausted other means of getting status, I enlisted the help of my US congressman. His office made an inquiry to the FAA. Perhaps it was coincidence, but about two weeks later the FAA was calling me asking where I’d like my medical faxed. Yes, you read that correctly. The FAA called me.

Others have suggested to never take this approach because perhaps it could backfire (and cause the FAA to drag their feet). When asked, these people did not go through the process so I’m not sure what evidence they had. I did go through the process and it worked for me. It has not backfired at all.

My condition is one that the AME can issue (after the initial medical is issued) as long as my medical condition does not deteriorate. I have renewed it once and my standing approval for this was good for four years (if I remember correctly). If your medical is approved, the FAA will send you very specific instructions on what you need to do (example: bring certain documentation to subsequent exams). Follow those directions exactly and the process will go much smoother.

I am currently in initial training for a 135 commuter operation. In my class of 10 people, 2 admitted to having special issuances (including me). I can’t speak to 121 operations.

Best of luck to you! Hang in there!!


While I’m sure Anne and others appreciate the optimism, I respectfully have to disagree. No my friend, there isn’t always a solution unless you mean forget becoming an airline pilot? I’m not saying that’s the case here but despite the “anyone can be anything” chant the reality is no everyone can’t. Not saying anyone is better or smarter but there are limitations and conditions that will prevent people from becoming airline pilots. While Anne would like the FAA to “let us at least try to prove our worth!” the airlines are not always so inclined to do so. There have been cases of pilots suffering from mental illness having issues and it doesn’t bode well for the airlines. We live in a society where everyone is looking to point fingers, place blame and get rich. If a pilot were to have an incident you can bet the first thing that will come out will be that Special Issuance and why was that pilot hired and entrusted with the lives of hundreds of people? Doesn’t look good on the 6 o’clock news and opens that airline up to tremendous liability.

I’m not trying to rain on any parades and I wish everyone success but I’m sorry, no there isn’t always a solution. At least not one that leads to the airlines.


I agree. Unfortunately there is not always a solution to this problem. Even if you get a special issuance medical, it is possible that either the medical condition will change (making it not possible to obtain a medical in the future) or the FAA may change the way they look at your particular medical condition in the future (for better or for worse). Keep that in mind…

Just to point out something though…nobody besides me, my AME and the FAA know that I have a special issuance medical. You can’t tell by looking at it (eg. ‘special issuance’ isn’t noted on it anywhere). If you query the airman records, it doesn’t say ‘special issuance’ anywhere. Even my copy of my PRIA information doesn’t note that it is a special issuance anywhere.

The airline applications I have filled out ask if I have or can obtain a first class medical. The answer to that question is yes.

Now, because I don’t want any surprises down the road, I always volunteer that I have a special issuance medical. But I have never been asked if that is the case and you cannot tell by looking at the medical itself. I might be able to argue that I don’t need to disclose my SI status, but that’s not me. I don’t want any surprises.

My point is this: the FAA has determined that I am worthy of a first class medical. Mine likely took more paperwork and a lot more time to obtain than most. But they have determined that I am fit to fly.

Safe flying everyone!


Hi Adam, thank you for your feedback.

I guess I was talking specifically about the medical certificate, and in the case of SSRI SI, one can work it out under the current regulation (still very difficult and expansive). I am also well aware in other situations such as ADD and ADHD, there is no way FAA would give out a medical certificate, not even for 3rd class.

I agree that it’s just part of the life and sometimes we can’t do anything about it. But that also make me believe it’s important to take steps by steps, and do research. That’s why I ask you for your opinion when it comes to hiring. Everyone should know what problem they are facing, before they can have a try to solve the problem. So I really appreciate your input.

But I also wonder though, for example there are 1624 1st class SI for color vision deficiency. Those airmen were probably born with that condition so I wonder how they past the interview? There are also 15,525 1st class SI for hypertension medication, and I don’t think they stand for a very positive image for the airlines when it comes to public stigma. The logic here doesn’t quite add up. But hey the world is not always so logical. I know there are big uncertainties in the aviation industry, so I probably should just call the recruiting departments and do my research…