Aviation Medical Validity Periods
This is a rather unusual post that is being made in our blog section, but it is fairly important. We are going to be addressing a rather misunderstood concept in aviation surround the aviation medical, in particular the validity period of the medicals.
This is an important article to read because it will transform your understanding on the Transport Canada aviation medical. In addition to this, it is a pretty common question to be found on the Transport Canada pilot exams. The material found in this article has been adapted from our private pilot and commercial pilot ground school courses.
Transport Canada Aviation Medical Requirements
Let’s recap the types of medicals in Canadian aviation.
- Category 1 Medical: Mostly used by Airline Pilots and Commercial Pilots
- Category 2 Medical: Used only by Air Traffic Controllers
- Category 3 Medical: Mostly used by Private Pilots and Recreational Pilots.
- Category 4 Medical: Used by Recreational Pilot Permit Holders and student pilots.
Student pilots who start flight training should book their aviation medical with a civil aviation medical examiner as soon as possible after they have made the decision to start pilot training. We also suggest new students complete a Category 4 Medical Declaration with their family doctor if possible to expedite the medical process. Once the declaration is completed by the family doctor, it should be emailed to a local Transport Canada service center.
Why do both?
The processing times for a Category 1 or 3 medical are unpredictable, anywhere from a few weeks to a year. The processing time for a Category 4 medical is a few weeks due to the expedited process.
We have heard stories of students conduct the Category 1 medical and not receiving anything from Transport Canada Aviation Medicine for 9 months, and then completing the Category 4 medical and receiving the Category 4 in a few weeks. Attempting to obtain a Category 4 medical with your family doctor will not affect your initial Category 1 medical application.
The validity periods of the medicals is governed by the Canadian Aviation Regulations 404.04, especially the chart as seen below.
Here is the thing with this chart, there are only three columns. Let us only pay attention to the first column as it dictates where to start in this chart. Column 1 dictates the license, permit, or rating held. The validity period of an aviation medical is dependant upon the license held. This is a super important concept to understand as this differs from the type of medical you need to hold a license. The remaining two columns are pretty self explanatory as they validity periods are stated there.
Let’s take an example.
- A 30 year old private pilot holds a Category 3 medical. How long is their medical valid for? Answer: 60 months.
- A 31 year old private pilot hold a Category 1 medical. How long is their medical valid for? Answer: 60 months.
But why are both 60 months if they both have different medical categories? It is because both medical categories validate the PPL as per CAR 421.26 and according to the chart, BOTH medicals are valid for 60 months. Remember, the validity period is based upon the license that you hold, not the category of medical.
The Category 1 Medical and CPL/ATPL
According to regulations found in CAR 404.04:
- (6.1) The validity period of a medical certificate for a commercial pilot licence, a multi-crew pilot licence — aeroplane and an airline transport pilot licence, if the holder of the licence is acting as a flight crew member for hire or reward, is 12 months.
- (6.2) However, the validity period of a medical certificate referred to in subsection (6.1) is reduced to 6 months if
- (a) the holder of the licence is 40 years of age or older and is conducting a single-pilot operation with passengers on board; or
- (b) the holder of the licence is 60 years of age or older.
- (6.3) The holder of a commercial pilot licence or an airline transport pilot licence may exercise the privileges of a private pilot licence until the end of the applicable validity period for the private pilot licence specified in subsection (6).
So, after 1 year, what happens? The privileges of the CPL/ATPL holder change, not the category of medical. A medical category will only change when a pilot is reassessed by a civil aviation medical examiner to a different standard.
Examples (Answers at the end)
What date do the following medical exams expire?
- A 19 year old PPL holder competes their Category 3 medical exam on January 2 of 2022.
- A PPL 45 year old PPL holder completes their Category 3 medical exam on March 4 2023.
- A 20 year old completes a Category 1 medical on August 29th 2022.
- A 29 year old CPL holder completes their Category 1 medical on November 11 2021.
- A 39 year old PPL holder completes a medical exam February 4th of 2023. Their birthday is on February 10th 2023.
Why the big deal with this? You really made an article on this?
In pedagogy, there is a term known as threshold concept. Think of it like a finish line in a race, once you cross it, you can’t go back and do the race. It is a boundary that once crossed, changes your perception and view on a discipline. Potter (2014) says that once you understand a threshold concept, you enter a previously inaccessible, even unknown, way of thinking. It is something you can’t un-see or un-know. Once you understand a threshold concept, you can be sure you finally understand it or “get it.”
The way aviation medicals are taught is grossly oversimplified and often taught incorrectly because it is easier to understand the wrong way. Just like when flight instructors say that lift is made be airfoils because of Bernoulli’s Theorem and then neglect the laws of physics, conservation of energy, and more.
This article is designed to be transformative and provide an irreversible way to look at the validity period of medicals – the correct way. This is not an interpretation of the regulations, this article directly references the regulations to make our point. When you start to address the problem correctly using the correct words and phrases, among other things, you can be sure you understand the material.
Another point to make regarding medicals in Canada is that they are categories of medicals and not classes of medicals. The term classes of medicals are often used by pilots who don’t quite understand the Canadian system for whatever reason. This is an important distinction because you may book a medical with an examiner who can do both Canadian and American aviation medicals and you may be paying for something you don’t want if you use the wrong word.
- February 1 2027
- April 1st 2025.
- Don’t know because we don’t know what license they hold.
- December 1 2022 but can exercise PPL privileges until December 1 2026.
- March 1 2028