Classes of Medical Certificates

The FAA issues three classes of Medical Certificates based upon the type of flying you will be doing and the pilot certificate privileges that you will be exercising.

In simplest terms:

  • A 1st Class medical is required when flight operations require an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.  An ATP is required to act as the Pilot in Command (PIC) or Captain of a scheduled airliner.
  • A 2nd Class medical is required when flight operations require a Commercial Pilot certificate.  A Commercial certificate is required essentially to get paid to be a pilot.
  • A 3rd Class medical is required for all other flight operations that require an FAA Medical Certificate.  This includes Student Pilots pursuing a Recreational or Private certificate, Recreational and Private pilots, and most Flight Instructors.

More detailed information about FAA Medical Certificate expirations can be found in the table below from the FAA:

If you hold

And on the date of
examination for your most recent medical certificate you were

And you are conducting an operation
requiring

Then your medical certificate expires, for that operation, at the end of the last day of the

(1) A first-class medical certificate (i) Under age 40 an airline transport pilot certificate 12th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(ii) Age 40 or older an airline transport pilot certificate 6th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(iii) Any age a commercial pilot certificate or an air traffic control tower operator certificate 12th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(iv) Under age 40 a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate (when acting as pilot in command or a required pilot flight crewmember in operations other than glider or balloon), a student pilot certificate, or a sport pilot certificate (when not using a U.S. driver’s license as medical qualification) 60th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(v) Age 40 or older a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate (when acting as pilot in command or a required pilot flight crewmember in operations other than glider or balloon), a student pilot certificate, or a sport pilot certificate (when not using a U.S. driver’s license as medical qualification) 24th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(2) A second-class medical certificate (i) Any age a commercial pilot certificate or an air traffic control tower operator certificate 12th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(ii) Under age 40 a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate (when acting as pilot in command or a required pilot flight crewmember in operations other than glider or balloon), a student pilot certificate, or a sport pilot certificate (when not using a U.S. driver’s license as medical qualification) 60th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(iii) Age 40 or older a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate (when acting as pilot in command or a required pilot flight crewmember in operations other than glider or balloon), a student pilot certificate, or a sport pilot certificate (when not using a U.S. driver’s license as medical qualification) 24th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(3) A third-class medical certificate (i) Under age 40 a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate (when acting as pilot in command or a required pilot flight crewmember in operations other than glider or balloon), a student pilot certificate, or a sport pilot certificate (when not using a U.S. driver’s license as medical qualification) 60th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.
(ii) Age 40 or older a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate (when acting as pilot in command or a required pilot flight crewmember in operations other than glider or balloon), a student pilot certificate, or a sport pilot certificate (when not using a U.S. driver’s license as medical qualification) 24th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the medical certificate.