A close family member is over 70, early dementia, severe cardiovascular disease, frequently falls asleep at inappropriate times during the day, on 10+ prescriptions, overweight, high blood pressure. Has blacked out from cardio events and more. The individual has had several minor car accidents in the recent years. Despite these challenges, this person is extremely intelligent and still mentally high functioning.

This individual has reported to me that they have been awarded a medical certificate and will be pursuing a pilot's license. This person's plan is to fly solo frequently, including across the country and back every few weeks in single engine aircraft.

This is insane for the FAA to allow this person to fly. One possibility is that this super smart individual carefully selected a physician to examine them who doesn't know them well, and charmed their way through the exam. Another possibility is that this family member flat out lied their way to a medical certificate. I cannot imagine any physician signing their name to a recommendation for this person to fly.

I already tried persuading this individual not to fly, or to fly with instructors or younger healthier pilots. The person became extremely belligerent and angry for my expressing these concerns and stated they will be flying solo. Note, this person was previously licensed and totalled their prior aircraft in a non-injury wreck.

Note I am not a pilot and mostly ignorant of FAA procedures and regulations. I tried using the FAA hotline webform to alert the FAA they are making a dangerous mistake allowing this person to fly. I have not received a response. I don't know if the hotline responds to concerns like this. Is there anything else I can do?

P.S. I'm also concerned about this person driving...

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Aviation Meta, or in Aviation Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Apr 4 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that the FAA must balance the investigation. They have a primary concern for safety, but they also get many false complaints and pilots have rights too. $\endgroup$
    – Max Power
    Apr 4 at 22:27

5 Answers 5


@Chris has a great answer but to expand on that

  • The FAA has a hotline for reporting safety issues that you can try, you can start a filing here
  • If the individual is actually on 10 or more medications regularly there is a fair chance they are on a disqualifying medication that they did not inform the AME about. If you are positive they are on one of these medications I would bring it up in your report.
  • The FAA's guide for medical examiners is not a secret, you can find it here and it may contain information that can confirm or deny your assumptions.

There is one confusing aspect to the question you mention

Note, this person has flown before and totalled their prior aircraft in a non-injury wreck.

This implies they once had a private pilots license or at least a solo endorsement and flew without an instructor (who, all things considered, would have done everything in their power to prevent an accident).

I cannot imagine any physician signing their name to a recommendation for this person to fly.

Have you considered asking the individual to see their medical? First, second, and third class medical are printed and signed by the physician, you can should easily be able to find out who issued it.

Just for edification and completeness:

This individual has reported to me that they have been awarded a medical certificate and will be getting a pilot's license.

In reality this individual may be getting a pilots license that decision lies ultimately with the DPE no matter how much someone wants a pilots license.

Just to defend the individual a bit, if you do not know exactly what their blood pressure is (and if its controlled), the exact medications they take, and the actual nature of their conditions it can be hard to determine if they are indeed fit (or unfit) to fly. If they lied to the AME, thats a whole different can of worms.


The new information added to the question changes the answer quite a bit and its worth updating. Pilots licenses in the US do not "expire" per-say. They can be revoked by the FAA but thats a somewhat rare occurrence and usually requires the individual to repeatedly break regulations or do something belligerent. Since you state that the individual "had" a pilots license, assuming it was not revoked by the FAA (possibly as a result of their accident) then the individual still has a pilots license. In order to fly again all they will need is a valid Medical and a valid Biennial Flight Review (1 hour of ground and 1 hour of air instruction required for all pilots every 2 years). These two things will make them legal to fly again, practical or not.

If the individual did indeed have the license revoked and are re-applying then the previous answer applies as they will need to fly a new check ride.

It is also possible to "lose your medical" which may render you unable to fly (operationally dependent here). In this case depending on why you lost it in the first place you can get it back or apply for a SODA and fly again.

Remember: Currency is not Proficiency

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for feedback Dave, I clarified my question. "was previously licensed" and "will be pursuing their license". Seeing their medical is out of the question as the individual is upset already upset at me (per the conversation I mentioned in my question) $\endgroup$ Apr 4 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ @SpeedytheFastest You might search on amsrvs.registry.faa.gov/airmeninquiry to see if they have a license already, and if they really do have a medical certificate already. Pilot certificates don't typically expire as much as just need a bare bones of training to keep current. Like 2 hours every 2 years. It would be much easier to "fly under the radar" if said family member already has a pilot certificate. $\endgroup$
    – Azendale
    Apr 4 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, it's "biennial," not "biannual." Biannual means every six months. English is confusing. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 4 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ "certificates" not "licenses". We can interpret your intent easily enough, but they are not the same thing, and for political/legal reasons it is best not to repeatedly reinforce incorrect information. Certificates are verification of a set of properties, like training. Licenses are permission and primarily used to collect fees or restrict participation. $\endgroup$
    – Max Power
    Apr 4 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ The correct spelling is per se (it's Latin). It's too small for me to create an edit. $\endgroup$ Apr 6 at 12:58

The FAA will probably get around to reading your report, eventually. It's a large bureaucracy, and I wouldn't expect quick results.

If you want a quicker result (and you should, with what you are describing), I would try calling the nearest Flight Standards District Office to you, and perhaps the Regional Flight Surgeon overseeing your area. I'd just call both if I were you. Worst case scenario you waste a bit of time.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Aviation Meta, or in Aviation Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Apr 5 at 18:25

You wrote "This individual has reported to me that they have been awarded a medical certificate and will be pursuing a pilot's license."

In order to get a license, they will have to go through significant Ground School, take a difficult written test that involves memorization, following detailed instructions and critical thinking.

They will also have to spend enormous time with an instructor in close quarters. Then, even after their instructor signs them off for various stages (first solo, cross country flight, Bravo Airspace, night flight), the school's Chief Pilot will review their work and confer with the instructor.

This entire process will probably take longer than the 2 years that the Medical Cert is good for. So he will also need a renewed medical exam during that period.

Finally, they will ultimately be signed off for their Certificate by an FAA DPE.

I believe that if they really can pass ground school, written test, instructor signoff, Chief Pilot review, and the DPE exam, and likely a second medical, then maybe they really do deserve their license!!

The process is intensive, and I do believe it works.

Most well-qualified, healthy students pursuing a recreational cert (not career-oriented) will take between 1 and 3 years to finish their Private Pilot cert.

While it is technically possible to do it in about 2 to 3 months, that would involve committing to it as a full-time task: 10+ hours a day flying and studying books.

If your relative is as old and infirm as you say, I suggest letting them pursue the training, and even being supportive. If you can meet the instructor, you can raise a concern with them in a supportive way. Instead of saying, "You should deny grandpa a license." try saying, "I really care about grandpa. I'm always worried about him, and want to be sure he's fully prepared to fly on his own".

If he can get his license (which is not a "rubber stamp" process), more power to him!

Even if he cannot finish getting his license, at least he gets the opportunity to try, and some degree of flying experience in his final years.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a fine answer, and I agree with most of it, but please keep in mind the premises set in the question: the person is not healthy: obesity, cardivascular issues, potential dementia, narcolepsy, blackouts, several medictions and whatnot. A person such as this is not fit to fly. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Apr 6 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61: That is the opinion of a non-medical, non-pilot family member. I'm pointing out that if the individual can pass all the flight qualifications, medical, airmanship and ADM, under close observation by instructors for an estimated year or more than they actually are fit to fly despite what their non-expert nephew might believe. Getting a PPL is NOT like getting a DL. A DL only requires one brief test on a good day, with as many retakes as you want. A PPL requires months of intensive training with no red-flags raised. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Apr 6 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 we have 1 person's word for that, and that's the very person who wants to take a person's dream away. Obesity is NO factor for grounding someone, medication doesn't have to be (depends on the specific medication). Narcolepsy doesn't have to be either (I have narcolepsy, it wasn't a factor causing my grounding, ironically the medication I take for it was), etc. etc. etc. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Apr 6 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ @abelenky Someone who may lose consciousness at any moment due to a cardiac event is not fit to fly regardless of their skill or aptitude, and this is something that a CFI wouldn't even know about unless the student happened to faint while in the brief period before their first solo. If the relative did not disclose these events to their AME, they did not truly pass the medical to begin with. If they did, they surely have been evaluated and have an SI, and all is well. Otherwise, if they lied and don't have the sense to ground themself it only makes sense to force the issue. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 6 at 23:56
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting none of the mentioned troubles alone, maybe not even two or three together, but they do add up. Exception being If the person in question has diagnozed (early) stage dementia, that would be a definite disqualifier for medical. As for the "we only have 1 persons word..." argument: it simply does not stand. If we used that filter here, a subsantial portion of questions would have to be closed. The question poses us an anonymized dilemma, and we are to advice on that to the best of our ability. One more thing: there is no such thing as a universal right to become a pilot! $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Apr 8 at 7:11

You stated in your question that

This individual has reported to me that they have been awarded a medical certificate and will be pursuing a pilot's license.

It is most likely that, given all the problems this person has as per your statement, the pursuance of the pilot's licence will not be successful. Not knowing the exact class of the mentioned medical certificate it is hard to judge how rigorous of an examination this person has gone through, but it seems likely at least some foul play is involved.

Dementia, even in its early stages will present itself sooner rather than later during pilot training, leading to termination of training.

As for the reporting of this to FAA/other relevant agency: an impaired person operating an aircraft poses a general threat to the public. So at least in the case this person somehow manages to plow through flight training all the way to solo flight stage, even the "regular" police becomes a relevant authority. Mind you the mental status of this person should be documented by health authorities before pursuing this route.


Do not forget suspecting for potential (criminal) background – bribery. You wrote:

Has blacked out from cardio events and more. (...) This individual has reported to me that they have been awarded a medical certificate.

It is possible that your relative has bribed the physician. In such a case, there could be additional ways to challenge results of med exams. This actually opens you additional legal options to try and increase your chances to validate your concerns. You did not state your country, but check which organization oversights the work of physicians and raise a concern with them. In Europe where I live, even with less severe diagnoses you will never get medical approval for flying a plane (not even driving a bus... absolutely not mentioning vehicles like locomotives).

Also continue closely watching any results of future exams of this relative. Challenging any similar successful passes of future medical exams can help you achieve uncovering his true health capabilities which could also lead to revocation of his driver license.

Do challenge the last medical exam just when next incident happens, where temporary health disability can play its role – should it be a minor car damage due to temporary loss of driver's awareness of his surroundings. You can bring it as a "new incident" which, "as you suspect", can have impact on existing medical clearances of this person.

  • $\begingroup$ I would like to know what negative earned the downvotes. Bribery is common everywhere in the world and in this case it is one of possible causes. And for example, according to Corruption Perception Index, USA is not higher than on 24th position in the list of world countries, far behind the Western Europe. Bribery there is a likely thing. Pretending that corruption is non-existing problem actually helps in its growth. It may be not reasonable to skip (and waste) an opportunity to investigate in case where it did likely happen. $\endgroup$
    – miroxlav
    Apr 6 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ Just lying to a new doctor seems a lot easier & cheaper than bribery... but true either one isn't impossible. Although, your CPI index only measures "their perceived levels of public sector corruption" not private doctors who could personally get in a LOT of trouble. Also, I'm wondering how getting medical permission to drive a bus is easier to get than flying a single or ultralight aircraft? The potential for damage & loss of life seems exponentially higher for a loaded bus on the ground. Then again, you can always stop a bus in a few seconds if you feel ill, landing (safely) takes longer. $\endgroup$
    – Xen2050
    Apr 7 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Xen2050 You don't need medical permission for flying an ultralight aircraft, and you can fly a light sport aircraft with just a driver's license. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 7 at 16:36

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