There are a few critical things that every pilot needs to fly.  You might be thinking those things are money, fuel, and airspeed, often in that order.  True, but today we’re talking about two documents that every pilot must have with them to fly; their pilot certificate and a medical certificate. Historically, the medical is obtained by finding a doctor who is an AME (aviation medical examiner) and setting up an appointment. The medicals are offered in either First Class (primarily professional pilots), Second Class, or Third Class (most student and private pilots). As of May 1st, 2017, an alternative to the third class medical was introduced. Known as BasicMed, or Third Class Medical Reform, it promised to make the medical component simpler for many pilots who might otherwise seek a third class medical. I thought I’d break down the basics of BasicMed to give you an overview and some helpful links if you’ve been wanting to know more about it.

If you are a new pilot looking to get your first medical, BasicMed won’t be the path for you. First time medicals for new pilots or for medicals that have been expired since before 2006 must first go through a designated AME.  If that’s you, find an AME here.  To qualify for BasicMed, you must hold a valid drivers license and have held an aviation medical certificate after July 14th, 2006. 

This is the back of my third class many years ago.  At the time, a medical exam for third class was every 24 months (under the age of 40).  Since 2008, that has been expanded to 60 months in between medicals.


What To Do
The process is fairly straight forward. Start by filling out the FAA Form 8700-2. It’s a basic medical questionarre/worksheet. Then take that form to any state-licensed physician (presumably your regular doctor) for an exam. The doctor will complete their portion of the form you brought in. From there, go home and take the online medical course. Certain info from the form you brought from the doctor will be entered there. Print out the course completion certificate and keep it with you in your logbook.  It’s that simple.

FAA Forms

Going to your own doctor who knows your medical history has it’s benefits.


Traditional third class medicals require that they be renewed by an AME every 60 months (five years) for pilots under the age of 40, or every 24 months for ages 40 and over. Under BasicMed, you simply take the online medical course every 24 months and visit your doctor (not the AME) again every 48 months. Again, this likely means a simple trip back to your regular doctor.

The medical course offered by AOPA is a medical self assessment that is accessed on most of your devices.


There are obviously some limitations to what you can do in the air under BasicMed, but for most pilots, I don’t think this is too prohibitive. The airplanes you fly must have a maximum takeoff weight of 6000lbs and certified for a maximum of six occupants. This means that you can fly a maximum of five passengers. You are limited to flight in the United States, under 18000 feet and under 250kts indicated. And while you can’t fly for hire under BasicMed, you can act as safety pilot as long as you are able to act as Pilot In Command (PIC) of the aircraft.

For the majority of aircraft renters and owners alike, BasicMed is a great solution to simplify the medical process.


If you want to dig a little deeper into BasicMed, I would start with the FAQ page here.  You might have some what-ifs to delve into, and if you are seeking to fly commercially, you’ll likely need a first or second class medical to do so.  For my initial aviation medical exam as a student pilot, all I needed was a third class medical, but I opted for a first class medical just to make sure I didn’t have any limitations if I chose to fly professionally.  Whatever path you choose, stay healthy and fly safely!

Have you had any experience with BasicMed or any advice to share for anyone looking?  Share it in the comments below!

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  1. Steve Young

    I just completed the BasicMed process and found it to be easy and there was no out of pocket cost. My health insurance pays for an annual physical. My regular doctor did my physical and completed the paperwork.

    • Clay

      Thanks for sharing that, Steve! Glad the process was quick and painless.


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