No flying this week as the lesson I had booked was cancelled due to bad weather, but I did get one thing out the way – my CAA medical.
I don’t actually need to have one of these until I fly solo (which won’t be for another 2 or 3 months at least), but I wanted to get it out the way as if there were any problems I didn’t want to find out after having paid for lots of lessons etc.
The best appointment I could get was for 8am in the morning – the medical has to be done by a CAA Approved Medical Examiner (AME), and the nearest one to me was in Royston, as such a nice early start was required. Fortunately the directions I’d been given over the phone were nice and clear, so I had no trouble finding the place.
Initially it was just a matter of confirming basic details (as an aside the CAA hosts an application that the AMEs put the details in to directly, using a Citrix product to provide access (I used to work for Citrix and still do the odd bit of contract work for them, though not on this product), which my AME was quite critical of – I did notice however they were using a very old version so I suspect that’s where a lot of the problems were coming from!) and filling out a questionnaire that asked me if I had any known medical conditions etc – all nice and simple so far.
After this came the vision tests – firstly uncorrected (i.e. without my glasses), both near and distance vision – this was the bit I was most concerned about as while I knew my sight was within the limits having checked my prescription in advance, I have an astigmatism so my uncorrected near vision isn’t as good as it could be – fortunately these were fine. Then on to the test with correction which was no problem at all (I could read the bottom line on the chart which is one level greater than the standard required). The final sight related test was to check for colour blindness using an Ishihara test – this can be a problem with flying (particularly at night) as aircraft have red and green lights on the sides which can give you a clue as to whether it is coming towards you or going away from you etc – I’m not colour blind however so these were fine.
Next I was asked to stand on some scales, and then against the wall so my height could be measured. Then came the least glamorous part, I had to go in to the bathroom and provide a urine sample (fortunately I’d been told this in advance so made sure to attend with a full bladder) – this was fine and neither of the tests (which I think were to check sugar content and for the presence of any blood) revealed any problems – the next thing therefore was a basic physical exam – for this the AME checked my pulse, blood pressure, and listened to my breathing etc – again all fine.
Then came the ECG – I’ve never had one of these before, so it was an interesting experience – basically 10 probes are attached to specific areas of the body (via little sticky pads), which are hooked up to a machine that then analyses how your heart is working. The machine analyses the result and produces an interpretation, which in my case was “Sinus rhythm with sinus arrhythmia. Normal ECG” – the sinus arrhythmia bit just means that the timing between beats of my heart varies slightly with my breathing, and is quite typical in younger people (see wikipedia for more info) – I was given a copy to keep which I’ve put a scan of below:
Finally was a test for anaemia – this involves pricking my finger to get a tiny bit of blood, which then goes in to a machine that compares it to an internal standard to check the haemoglobin content. Mine was right in the middle of the range which is always good to hear. After that, the AME printed off the certificate (I wasn’t expecting to get it there and then, I’d assumed the CAA would send it out), and explained the limitations / validity to me.
The certificate is valid for 5 years, and if I’m still flying after 5 years then the renewal should be much simpler as I shouldn’t need another ECG until I’m 40 – because I need glasses there is a limitation that I “Shall wear corrective lenses & carry a spare set of spectacles” – I must sort out a spare set as I’m currently using the one I had after my main glasses broke!
Anyway, at least that’s out the way (and nice to know a doctor thinks I’m not likely to drop dead in the next 5 years at least!) – I’ve got two lessons booked next week so hopefully there will be some better weather and I’ll get up in the air again!