Medical exam for a commercial pilot?

Hello to all,
I’m interested in becoming a commercial pilot. That being said I’m a three-time cancer survivor. I lost my bladder and colon but otherwise I’m in GREAT health. My blood pressure is very good. My BMI is right in line with my age and height. Can anyone please tell me the steps to the medical exam. Can my previous cancer stop me from passing the exam? I’m in the process of financing my education at ATP and it’s costly, but now I’m scared about the exam. I will NOT let anything stop me but now I’m really scared. Can anyone recommend a physician in the Los Angeles area for the exam?

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Hello Joseph and Welcome,

First off congrats on beating cancer 3 times! That’s quite an accomplishment sir on many levels. While there are many pilots who’ve had cancer and were able to get their medicals back, obviously every case is different, which is why you really need to talk with an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner). Also you’re going to want to obtain a First Class medical. While only a Third class is required for training, a First is required for ATP and eventually employment at an airline. I recommend you visit . This is the FAA’s list of all registered AME’s. You can also just Google “AME in _____”(whatever your location is). A few years ago the FAA went digital and you’re now required to register and fillout the application online. Most AMEs receptionists will inform you of this when you make your appointment but some forget and if you show up without the forms you’ll have to come back. The site is It’s a simple process. Oh and make sure to hold on to your log in info as you’ll need it FOREVER.

Btw the AOPA (Airplane Owners and Pilots Assoc) has some great info on aviation medicals (they talk about diseases, medications etc). Definitely worth taking a look.

Let us know how you make out. Good luck!


Hi Adam,
Thank you for the reply and all the details. I have found a local AME near LAX. I called his office and the office confirmed I needed to complete an application online. So I went to the website you suggested and I completed the FAA form 8500-8. It asks a lot of questions. I was wondering what is the difference between a class 1 and a class 3 exam? I listed 2 pain meds that I currently take, I assume I must stop them before I can get my class 1 medical certificate is that the same for a class 3 cert.? Also on the form 8500-8 it asks under medical history admission to hospital and surgery. Will I be denied a license since I answered yes to two questions? Finally, if I fail the exam can I retake it? if so is there a waiting period before I can try it again? Will a failure hurt me down the road if I pass and apply at an airline one day.

Honestly, I’m kind of sad right now and wonder if my dream is possible or not. Any more info would be great.

thank you again,

Hey Joe,

Don’t be sad and don’t make assumptions. I first want to apologize. While I don’t think I gave you “bad” info (you asked about the process) I think I could have given you “better”. You definitely need to fill out the forms prior but before you drop the $150-200 on the First Class exam I would call the AME back and ask for a consultation. Explain the situation and what you’re trying to accomplish. They’re the pros and they can advice you as what will be an immediate denial and what isn’t. There are many medications which are approved by the FAA and many that aren’t. Yours may be or there may be a approved substitute. Past history also isn’t an immediate denial, it depends on the condition and after effects if any. Joe there are so many variables which is why you really need to talk with the AME. He may say you’re money or he may send you back to your private Dr for more info, changes in meds, after effects etc. Seriously don’t be upset until you know there’s something to be upset about. Most important always be honest!

As for the difference between First, Second and Third basically it really comes down to the thoroughness of the exam, the time between exams and most important the privileges each allows. Again you technically could complete all your training with only a Third Class BUT again you can’t fly for an airline without a First (which at your age, and mine, you’ll need to renew every year until you’re a Capt then it’s every 6 mos). The reason ATP requires a First is they don’t want you investing all your time and money only to find out you can’t hold a First Class and therefore will never fly for an airline.

Lastly if you’re denied you can appeal BUT keep in mind you’ve been denied for a reason and will have to demonstrate cause for a reversal.

Call the AME back and schedule a consult. Don’t sweat it until you talk.


Thank You Adam, thank you so much, I will call the office first thing in the morning and find out if I can do a consult first.

Again Thank You,


We have had plenty of pilots who have had cancer, beat it and returned to work. Don’t give up, keep fighting like you already have been. See what the Doc says and then go from there.