The UK Civil Aviation Authority has written to Aeromedical Examiners (AMEs) advising that private pilots should not be undertaking medicals during the current lockdown except in a very small number of specific circumstances. Further, the letter says that the Authority is monitoring AME activity to: “identify cases where the applicant appears to have breached the current Government lockdown regulations”
The e-mail from CAA Head of Medical Policy Dr Stuart Mitchell to AMEs was sent on the 06 November. In part, the letter reads: “Class 2 and LAPL leisure/sport pilots cannot decide that it is up to them whether to have a Class 2 or LAPL medical, despite being made aware or reminded by you of the Government guidelines. Our advice to you as AMEs is that such pilots should not be attending medicals during this time.”
“Class 2 and LAPL leisure/sport pilots cannot decide that it is up to them whether to have a Class 2 or LAPL medical”
The references to government guidelines and regulations do not appear to support the CAA’s position. The guidance to General Aviation pilots issued by the Department of Transport on the 04 November specifically states that pilots may fly for reasons including “…for the purposes of work, where it is not reasonably possible to work or provide those services at home”. The DfT guidance also permits: “Engine health and maintenance check flights and flights to maintain currency only, that would otherwise lapse during the planned lockdown period, should only be conducted where there is an urgent requirement to do so, and alternative options are not available.” Evidently, none of these permitted activities are possible if the pilot does not hold valid medical certificate or declaration.
The CAA letter (reproduced in link below) does recognise that there are certain circumstances under which a private pilot should be permitted to undertake a medical, for example in order to undertake urgent engine flight tests. However, in these circumstances Dr Mitchell advises AMEs to ask these pilots to first contact the CAA, explain in detail why they need to undertake a medical, and then receive some form of formal clearance from the Authority.
The CAA’s position seems at odds with other medical services – many medical facilities remain open for routine tests, for example private medical healthcare groups such as BUPA are actively encouraging clients to undertake healthcare checks during the lockdown. Many opticians and dentists also remain open.
The general Government guidance on visiting medical practitioners during the lockdown, states: “You can leave home for any medical reason…”
The CAA letter may also contradict not just Government guidance, but also the legislative backing for the second lockdown. The general Government guidance on visiting medical practitioners during the lockdown, states: “You can leave home for any medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies…”
The ‘Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020’, which came into force on the 5th November, state in part:
“5.—(1) No person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”
However, in the ‘exceptions’ section of the legislation, it is also stated:
“Exception 4: medical need etc
(6) Exception 4 is that it is reasonably necessary for [a person] to leave or be outside [a Person’s home]—
- to seek medical assistance, including to take any medical tests, be vaccinated or access any of the services referred to in paragraph 47 of the Schedule;”
In light of this, why are the CAA apparently taking such an apparent Draconian stance when it comes to pilot medicals? Pilots have gone on-line to accuse the CAA of over-stepping the mark and acting in an Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ manner, outside of its remit.
The CAA told FTN: “Under the Government’s current COVID-19 lockdown regulations, the public are required to stay at home and to avoid meeting other people except for specific purposes. We have therefore advised Aeromedical Examiners (AMEs) to not carry out Class 2 and LAPL medical examinations for private pilots during the lockdown. AMEs can still carry out examinations for professional pilots and air traffic controllers, as both parties will be undertaking work or a work-related activity.
“Although the lockdown regulations allow members of the public to attend some medical appointments for ‘medical needs,’ it does not allow medical assessments for leisure flying. If a pilot thinks they have an urgent need for a Class 2 or LAPL medical examination (and cannot utilise the Civil Aviation Authority’s Online Medical Self-declaration System) they can make a written case to our Medical Department which will consider it in consultation with the CAA’s General Aviation Unit,”