How safe is it to get your pilot license after a heart attack? What precautions should you take before even applying to an aviation school to begin Pilot License trainings? And if you’ve already applied for one, should you reschedule or withdraw?
Wow! That’s a lot of questions! However, this is a topic that is highly important and must be well known by anyone, hence, it is common to be asking lots of questions on this topic! Without further adieu, let’s jump right to the answers.
Getting your pilot license after a heart attack
Heart attacks are serious business, it isn’t something to take lightly. You may have dreams of becoming a pilot, but your health must come first! Fortunately, there’s a way for you to have both good health and achieve your dreams of becoming a pilot.
First of all, what is a heart attack? A heart attack occurs when the tissue in your heart is dead. How did this happen?! Well, there are many situations in which a heart attack can occur. Heart attacks occur due to a block in the coronary artery meaning there is a blockage in your blood flow.
This may happen due to a build up of plaque in the coronary arteries over time or due to certain drugs such as cocaine, due to depression, stress, intense coldness, etc. The latter, however, is referred to as the Coronary Artery Spasm while the former is called the Coronary Heart Disease.
The signs and symptoms of a heart attack differs between people and gender. The most common ones are chest pains, upper body discomfort, numbness in the left arm, and shortness of breath. You may also feel light-headed, dizzy, feeling sick and vomiting, fatigue, and so many more. Heart attack in women are often more sudden than that of men as sometimes, the very first symptom of a heart attack in women is death.
If you or anyone you know are feeling any of these symptoms, call your doctor or go to the Emergency Room (ER) as soon as possible! You may be referred to a surgeon and you may be required to undergo a coronary artery bypass grafting operation.
If this occurs, there are certain rules that the FAA has put up. Unfortunately, coronary artery diseases such as these, even if you have been treated decades before and are completely fine now, may become a calculating factor in your medical examination as these are included in FAA’s 15 specifically disqualifying medical conditions. This doesn’t mean that the sky is completely off limits to you.
The only way you can become a pilot with these conditions is if you have been granted a medical examination pass through the special issuance process. Although, this only applies to those that has had a coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the left main stem coronary artery.
If you have had any other procedures that was done in any other coronary artery except for the left main stem coronary artery, then you will be given a mandatory grounding period of 90 days where you will not be allowed to fly for, well, 90 days. Either ways, your doctor would have given you specific order to be in bed rest and not get yourself too tired.
After undergoing a coronary artery bypass grafting operation, you must have a 6-month recovery period. Afterwards, you will be eligible to apply for a special issuance process to get through your third class special issuance. What you will need for your third class special issuance is a letter from your cardiologist that has treated you, stating in the letter that you have undergone such procedure along with what medications you are currently taking and your progress after the procedures.
It was suggested by AOPA that you should take your recovery time as opportunity to gather up all hospital admission and discharge summaries, reports of any procedure done, including cardiac catheterisation and stent or bypass procedure reports. AOPA also recommends you to plan ahead of time and request such letters and summaries ahead of time as the hospital and your cardiologist is undoubtedly busy 24/7.
All flight academies requires all prospective students to undergo a medical examination before beginning with your pilot license training. The prerequisites for 14DAYPILOT Flight Academy’s Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot License, Multi-Engine Rating all requires students to have a medical third class or better. Hence, without your special issuance, you will not be able to undergo your pilot license trainings and cannot get any or all of your pilot licenses.