Switching careers and, obviously, having questions!

Hi there guys,

I think I’ve done a pretty good job reading through these forums. I know that my questions have been asked and answered before, but I still have that urge to read your responses to my particulars.

Background: I’m 46yo physician, and I have practiced medicine for years. I’m 5’ 6" and weigh 190 lb. Blame it on my wife’s good cooking and my lazy lifestyle. I have a “lazy eye”, high blood pressure, and type-II Diabetes, thanks to my BMI that’s border line obese (definitely overweight) and my genes. But, all of these are well controlled with meds, and I’m absolutely on top of it.

Flying has always been a dream and now my personal situation allows me to pursue this career. I’m fully committed.

I’ve gotten in touch with ATP Flight School in Phoenix, and took an intro training ride in a Cessna with a CFI. I have zero flying experience (unless you count 1989 Microsoft Flight Simulator that I launched off of a set of 3.5" floppy disks - and boy it was my favorite video game). My CFI said I was “natural”. This may have been a sales pitch to convince me to go with their school, because I think I did horribly, and my adrenaline was at peak level. Needless to say I was ecstatic, both about my first time in the pilot seat and his comment.

Now all I have to do is to go for my FAA class 1 medical, and I’m horrified that I would fail. I’m fairly certain that if I lose 50 lb I can stop taking my meds altogether. 140 lb was my weight 18 years ago, so it’s doable. But, as any doctor will tell you, diabetes has a nasty habit of creeping up on you again even after you lose the weight. It’s genetics, and you can’t fight that. But it will take sometime before it happens.

So here are my fears and concerns, and what I think can be done about them.

  1. Lazy eye → Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SDOA) I drive since I was 16, why can’t I fly?

  2. Diabetes (a disqualifying condition according to FAA if not controlled by diet and exercise alone) → this thread was interesting

There, Chris said “As far as the airlines are concerned, I don’t think you should need to disclose it to them.” Can you really “omit” this and get away with it? FYI, it’s really hard to hide your diabetes because it will show in your urine, blood, and even if you go to your test fasting, having taking your meds immediately prior, and didn’t eat any carbs/sugars for the last week to test negative, your HbA1c will expose you.

Q: Is it routine to test for HbA1c in FAA class 1 medical?

  1. Hypertension → will absolutely be gone with the weight loss. 100% positive.

Realistically, I need 5-6 months to lose 50 lb and keep them off. But I want to start flight school ASAP because everyday counts. I also got approved for a student loan for the full amount of the training that will expire on 7/5. If I don’t enroll by July 15, I will have to either reapply or pay out of pocket (both not good).


  1. Can you get “Special Issuance” on your “first ever” try at FAA class 1 medical? Or do you have to pass 100% without any issues the first time around?

And if yes, I understand a Special Issuance will delay the process. Anyone knows how long? What factors, if any, affect the time the FAA needs to make a determination?

  1. The school said I can start while the exam results and any Special Issuance are still pending, but if I failed, I’ll have to drop, and now I’ll be saddled with the student loan. What would you do if you were in my shoes? Would you wait on your final results of the exam before enrolling, or depend on the anticipated AME assurances to go for it? (both the school and the AME are $$ driven) Mind you, if I wait for the results, I’m most definitely will have to reapply for the loan.

  2. Do you think it would be a good idea to put this whole pursuit off for 5 months until I lose the weight and then go for the exam, having to report my “lazy eye” as the single issue remaining? I’m afraid if I do this, I may get demoralized along the way and not lose weight in time. But if I’m under the stress of the school and the risk of losing money, I’ll be way more motivated to lose the weight and get in shape before the end of training (9 months).

  3. Down the road and after I lose the weight, Diabetes will come back and it won’t be controlled except with oral hypoglycemics (I know my genes will eventually fail me). Will that terminate my career right there and then?

This article


says otherwise. It’s long. Read the last part “3.) Airman with a diagnosis of diabetes controlled by use of an oral medication may be considered for Special Issuance for all three classes of Medical Certification”. Any comments given the above? Do you know of diabetic pilots controlled with oral meds who kept their wings?

What do you guys think? Should I go for it?

Thanks for reading thus far. I’d really appreciate your take on this.



To answer your questions:

  1. I am not sure, refer to your AME on this one.

  2. I would wait until I was fully approved before starting any flight training. It sounds like you have some rather complex issues that need to be addressed and could potentially be a hang up for you.

  3. That is a lot of weight to lose in just a few months, do you really think that is feasible? The FAA asks some questions like “have you ever…” So just being clear of something in the moment will not make it so you don’t have to answer the question in the affirmative.

  4. Refer to your AME for specifics on this, but I can tell you that airline pilots need to maintain a first class, not third, medical certificate.

I am sorry I could not provide you with more information, but I am not an AME and am just not qualified to answer your questions, any answer I would give you would just be a guess. On this forum we are happy to answer just about any questions other than those that are medical or legal in nature.

I would caution you against doing too much research on the internet. I am sure that you have had patients that spend way too much time with Dr. Google when they need to come see you, keep that in mind. An appointment with an AME is really the only way to get your questions answered.

Good luck with your endeavor.



I’m with Chris on this one. There are quite a few “IFS” in your statement and taking out a large loan AND quitting your job with so many contingencies doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies. As Chris said on the medical application the question isn’t “do you have” it’s “have you EVER had”. All the exemptions are decisions made by the FAA on a case by case basis. If it were one single thing I say ok maybe but it’s perfectly reasonable for the FAA to say hey we’ve got a combination of many factors here and deny the whole thing. Get the weight down and see how you make out.

You say “I’m afraid if I do this, I may get demoralized along the way and not lose weight in time” but you also say “Flying has always been a dream and now my personal situation allows me to pursue this career. I’m fully committed”. Which one is it?


Thank you Chris. I really appreciate your sound and reasonable response.

Hey Adam, thank you for your response. Thank you for clarifying that the FAA goes on a case by case basis too. Most of these decisions are “cookie cutter” elsewhere.

To answer your question, it’s both! Once I put myself into something, I’ll do everything short of dying before I quit. I’m old enough to know myself better. Once I put it off to achieve something else, that “may” (and that’s the rub) lead to it, it’s a different story. I lose that “passion, heat, urge, whatever” and it becomes business as usual. I’m going to lose the weight anyway, because I want to be healthy and around for quite sometime.

So, I guess my take from all of this is to cough up the money and see an AME, and lose the weight anyway, if not for the flight school, just for myself.

Thank you gentlemen.

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Anytime, that is what we are here for.

Hi Guys,

Thank you so much for your previous help, and I owe you this update. Today I had my FAA class one exam with Dr. Eric Shreder, who I got his name here on this forum (Thanks to Yarden here Aeromedical Examiner in my City).

What a great guy! I highly recommend him. He said that my “monocular” vision (the lazy eye condition) can be overcome by a flight test in the field to demonstrate ability, and that he personally knows pilots with my condition who hold class 1 medical license.

I lost 5 lb over the last 10 days. That’s an average of 0.5 lb/day. Registering at 185 lb today, I’m officially overweight as opposed to borderline obese 10 days ago. My diabetes medicine started to give me serious low blood glucose levels that I stopped it completely. My blood pressure is stable without medication anymore.

I discussed this and the future lookout of my career with Dr. Shreder and he was very positive that I’m pre-diabetic by FAA standards since my HbA1c never passed 8 (my highest ever was 7.9) and that the cut off limit for pilots was 8.9. He commended what I was doing to lose the weight and my newly adopted lifestyle.

As for the future outlook, since I explained a bit more about my genetic heritage, he explained that FAA’s fear of diabetic pilots is that they may go into hypoglycemia (and even coma) while flying because, generally speaking, this is a known side effect of current oral hypoglycemics. Then we agreed that the new diabetes drugs, being slowly adopted nowadays, are much more safer in inducing hypoglycemia and that eventually diabetes may be removed as a condition that prohibits pilots from flying (talk about 10-15 years from now).

He said that FAA class one can be issued with special waivers from the outset, and that if I waited until I lost the weight and was at my target BMI, monocular vision could have been the only issue FAA had to look into on my application. When I explained my loan situation and why I wanted to go with the exam quickly, not only did he understood, he said that he’d personally call the FAA to expedite their decision to catch up with the my student loan deadline. He also said that he’d vouch for me and tell the FAA examiner about my determination (and results so far) to lose weight and that I’m off all my meds since I filed the online application.

Overall, it was a very uplifting experience and renewed my hope for pursuing this career.

Thank you again for your help and support!

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That all sounds promising. Congrats and keep us posted.



I am so glad that it went well. Thanks for keeping us in the loop.


Hi Guys,

Bringing you up to speed, I’m still completely off all meds, and I registered at 179 lb today; consistently losing an average of 0.5 lb per day without any side effects. My HbA1c came in today at 6.4% which is pre-diabetic by medical standards; meaning that it would be medically unjustified to be on oral hypoglycemics. All is needed now is for the FAA to schedule a flight with one of their local field officers to “demonstrate ability”. Basically what this boils down to is determining if my depth/3D perception is as normal as if I had both eyes at 20/20.

So it looks more likely than not that I will join ATP’s 9 months Commercial Airline Pilot program. And my focus now shifts on the particulars of the program and what to expect. So far the school has been very vague in their answers. I can’t see a structure or an outline of a robust curriculum. All I keep hearing is that I have to be “free” and dedicate myself to the program and go with the flow. I like structure, and I’m not comfortable in fluid situations where “anything goes”. I was told for instance that I’ll be flying from day one. Shouldn’t that be preceded by simulators and ground school classes?

Any help describing how this program works, even in general outlines, and what to expect along the way will be greatly appreciated. (I’m attending the Phoenix, AZ location)

Thank you so much for your help before, and in the future.



I have to be honest, if you’re looking for “highly structured” ATP might not be the best fit for you. The program definitely has A structure but that’s part of the benefit of Part 61 training vs Part 141. One of the elements that allows the program to be accelerated is that it gives each individual what they need to be successful. Since different people learn differently that can and does vary. All they were saying is that you’ll be in an airplane on the very first day (or at least should be). Normally every day will start with some ground, followed by sim followed by a flight. BUT, if you did all the reading the night before, got the concepts and got everything correct on the quiz/homework, why waste time going over it again? If you show up and the weather is forecast to crap out later in the day you may actually fly first then iron out the wrinkles after in the sim. Flexibility is part of what makes the program work.

By contrast Part 141 schools say you WILL spend X hrs in ground school discussing Y, followed by ABC etc. While this may sound more appealing to you, it’s also the reason Part 141 training will take you 3-4 times longer.

ATP has been successfully training pilots for over 30yrs and the program works PROVIDED you do your part AND have some faith in your instructor and the process. If you’re going to be thinking or asking every day “shouldn’t we be…” you may not be happy?


All that sounds very interesting. Care to explain what’s part 61 training and what’s part 141? I’m a total novice here.

And yes, I’m a big “Shouldn’t we be doing …?” in general, let alone a “school”. But if the preset expectation is that this question doesn’t apply, I’ll just keep my mouth shut and go with it.

Good to know that if you finish the “theoretical parts” on your own, you’ll be ahead of the line for the “practical parts”. Pretty much how it worked in med school. Book worm here, no problems. :slight_smile:


I think I pretty much did? The FAA allows flight training to be done under either Part 141 or Part 61. Part 141 is much more structured and allows little deviation from a set curriculum. Part 61 basically says as long as you have the required hours and can pass a checkride, the FAA isn’t really concerned how you got there.

My question was not whether you could “keep your mouth shut” it was more would you be happy in that environment?


Ok, after reading a little bit on my own, I think I’m good with either part 61 or 141. I couldn’t find information, however, claiming that one will necessarily take longer, or is more expensive, than the other.

I also gathered that these are the expected “certifications” one will have to gather along the way, and in that order: Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating, Certified Flight Instructor, Air Transport Pilot.

Did I get that right? Thanks!


You’re missing a few. PPL, Multiengine Rating, Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot License, CFI (+CFII (Instrument Instructor) + MEI (Multiengine Instructor) then finally ATP.



You will be hard pressed to find anything official that states that either part 61 or part 141 will take longer, or is more cumbersome. What I can tell you is that I started out part 141 at a local flight school and switched to part 61 as soon as I was finished with my private license. I found there to be absolutely no advantage to training part 141, in fact it actually ended up costing more and taking longer than expected.


Hey guys,

Good news! I got my “Medical Certificate First Class” today. Yay! However, it has the limitation “Valid for Medical Flight Test Only. Not valid for solo flight”.

Along with it came instructions to contact the FSDO to schedule a “Medical Flight Test” to satisfy the FAA that my lazy eye/monocular vision does not affect my performance. I called and left a voicemail. On the FSDO phone’s pre-recorded message, there were instructions that they don’t allow walk-ins for general inquiry or any other reason without a prior appointment.

All said, my dealings with the FAA proved to be very frustrating. They only communicate via regular mail and they wait until the last minute to get back to you. They cost me and arm and leg in medical exams and believe it or not, they required a psych eval as well.

My question to you guys is I can’t fly a airplane yet, and I am not sure what to expect in this flight, or what i am supposed to do to pass. Anyone with experience in this can you please share? Thanks!

On another note, I lost the weight! I am at 147 +/- 5 lb and have been maintaining it since early Nov.
(miraculously survived Thanksgiving. LOL). I’m off all my meds. I have a ton of energy, and I like my new found being. Soon, I’ll start on a program to bodybuild those muscles, because now I look emaciated compared to my photos from earlier this year. For instance, my slacks size went down from 44-46 to 32-34. I’m happy I was able to pull that off. Even if things doesn’t go well for the pilot career, at least I got away with a new positive body image.

Looking forward to what you can share on the Medical Flight Test.


Hi Zachary,

Glad you were able to make more progress. I know the FAA is frustrating.
I’ve dealt with them before. I ended up having to take a 10 month delay.

I taught a pilot with monocular vision. We’re friends now. He’s currently
in Alaska flying Super DC-3s. I’ll reach out to him and see if I can get
some info on what his Medical Test Flight was like.



Your situation may be different. So, wait for the FSDO to respond and
listen to their instructions, but I spoke with my friend and this is what
he said.

You’ll be required to do 3+ takeoffs and landings and a simulated emergency
landing. You will be asked to spot nearby traffic when available, and the
last thing is to be able to tell how far terrain is from your present

In order for you to be able to accomplish all of this, you will essentially
need to be ready to solo. That means that you will need to go get some
instruction at a local flight school before you schedule your Med Flight.

Again, you may not have to do any of that. The FSDO has the final say. Keep
calling them during their normal business hours.



Will do. Thank you so much for the help and for finding out what your friend had to do. Now that I’ve dealt with the FAA requirements for the past 6 months or so, I know first hand how their requirements can be very specific and individualistic.

Have a good one. Thanks again.

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