Today marks exactly one year since I attended my Class One Medical Assessment. What a year it’s been, it hasn’t been easy, particularly in terms of the medical.
I booked my Class One Medical as soon as I could In September 2016. The earliest appointment available was Thursday the 8th of November at 12 noon. I opted to go to Centreline Aviation Medical Services, 22 Upper Wimpole Street, Central London. Why here? I hear you ask. Well because of its location and ease of access compared to clinics in Gatwick and Heathrow. I was apprehensive regarding the medical after hearing from our lecturer that at least one of us would fail, most commonly because of something we didn’t know existed.
The medical itself was in the London Heart Clinic, it seemed that Centreline uses these facilities for some of its medicals. Initially, I went off with a secretary, a lovely woman called Julie whom arranged me a CAA reference number and checked my application form and did some general administration. I was then brought back downstairs and told to wait for my first tests. These were with a specialist Nurse, whom brought me back upstairs to the same room for an ECG where I was laid on a bed, various sensors attached all over and told to lay still and relax. She printed off the results as a graph and retained them, bringing me downstairs to the back of the building for further tests. First, she asked me to urinate in a little personal labelled plastic flask and leave it in a basket. She then took a prick in my finger to take some blood. Thankfully both these tests came back ok. I then did the Spirometry test, blowing as hard as I could into a little white mouthpiece connected to a computer. You are able to see your results there and then, I assumed mine were ok because my results kept going green. All I can recommend is that you blow as hard as you can and don’t stop until you are told to do so. She didn’t seem bothered about my Asthma which I had been unaffected by since 2010. She then asked me to sit inside a booth and she conducted the hearing test. All I had to do was press a button on a handheld device every time I heard the frequency played. Thankfully I passed this too.
I was then sent off with the paperwork in hand. I was with my mum and she had a look, telling me my ECG was normal, this was something I was worried about. She isn’t a doctor or nurse but the ECG graph had some text on it saying normal ECG and normal rhythm or something along those lines. I was again relieved and then had some lunch. After lunch I went to the optometrist, whom undertaken various tests on my eyes. The standard tests you would expect at an Optician’s appointment. However, I also had to put my head inside a ball and follow this white spot of light around. I believe I had to click something every time I seen this white dot. However I cannot be sure of this so don’t quote me. He said I had a slight prescription in my left eye of about -0.25, which I already knew. I asked did he recommend wearing glasses and he said if your right eye compensates I wouldn’t at this moment in time. He then had a chat with the AME onsite and I was then called in by the AME.
I can remember the AME’s room very clearly, a large grand room with a huge desk and chairs. He sat down and took a look at my results and application. The results were all ok, however an area of my medical history was questionable and the AME debated about what to do. He deemed it necessary to refer my application to the CAA.
I had been anticipating a letter from the CAA with trepidation for some time, hoping a letter would come with a Class One Certificate attached. I remember the day very clearly, Friday the 23rd of December 2016. I had been at work less than two hours and the phone went in the medical records library. I picked it up to hear my mum and dad on the other side telling me the letter had arrived. They asked did I want them to read it to me. I of course said yes. It started off stating the facts, I was still hopeful. Then the tone changed, it discussed the necessity of part of my medical history requiring an Operational Multi-Crew Limitation (OML) to be placed on the medical. This would limit me to multi pilot operations alike in a commercial airline and so wouldn’t be too bad. However, it is said to make attaining a job very difficult for various reasons. As soon as them words left my dads mouth, my heart sinked and I started worrying and panicking. The letter didn’t end there, it said, and I quote from the letter: “I regret that on this basis you are assessed as unfit for EASA Class 1 Medical Certification.” This is because limitations cannot be placed on initial Class One Medicals. At this point, from what I can remember, I slumped to the floor with the phone still in hand crying. I thought it was over, my efforts and ambitions and time commitments were all a waste of time. I can’t tell you how soul crushing it is. I have to admit it was a dark day. Not the kind of information you want to receive two days before Christmas.
I contacted the CAA various times, alongside local AME’s asking for advice. The closest AME was able to offer the best advice and support whilst my head of programme at University too was extremely supportive. Luckily, my father and his colleagues at our place of work arranged an appointment with a specialist in the field of medicine related to the condition posing an issue to the CAA. At this point, people on my course were beginning to attend their medicals, most cases were referred to the CAA also whilst some attained their certificates on the day. This made it all the more worrying. Luckily, a friend from the course whom went for his medical the week after me was also struggling and so it was really helpful to be able to talk to someone in a similar boat.
It came to the appointment with the consultant specialist in Leeds. The consultant, with all respect, wasn’t familiar with the CAA procedures and didn’t see my ambition and drive. As a doctor, I suppose this is their job, to be objective and unbiased. He did some tests to help understand the condition and determine what could be done. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to do much. I was devastated. Becoming a pilot has been my all since a child, and suddenly it seemed I couldn’t do it – my future was uncertain. In the end the doctor wrote a letter to the CAA explaining the condition. I sent it off to the CAA for review.
It took months to hear back, I was ringing and ringing, asking for an update but they were not able to tell me. Eventually, towards the end of April I heard back from the head of the authority medical section. I had escalated my case in the form of an appeal by this stage and I believe this is why it may have been handed to the head of the medical section. His letter essentially said that my letter from the local consultant was no good, there were ‘inconsistencies’. He recommended I contact a specific consultant in London and arrange a private consultation with them. As it was my only option at the time, after finding out non-european medicals could not be converted across to EASA medicals without an initial application alike the one I had just undertaken, this consultant was my only lifeline.
I was fortunate enough to get an appointment with this consultant pretty rapidly at the end of April. Myself and my mother went down for the appointment in Central London. The Doctor started by explaining his love for Aviation, watching Boeing 747’s and A340’s depart for places like Delhi and Buenos Aires with his father, telling his father he would fly one of those aircraft one day. This consultant clearly had a passion for aviation and too could see my passion and drive. The consultant recommended various tests, conducted across varying visits to central London. As a consequence the consultant was able to write a letter based upon these tests which was then sent to the CAA for review.
Whilst on holiday in Kos, after having a lovely family meal and returning to the hotel on the 7th of July, I sat down and my phone vibrated a few times, all the emails coming in after picking up wi-fi again. At the top of the list, an email from MEDICALWEB, which I recognised as the CAA’s medical email. I assumed it was just an update or receipt of the letter, but it was from a Dr stating:
Dear Mr Morrison
You are assessed fit class 1………
I was absolutely overjoyed and thrilled, I grabbed a bottle of alcohol and ran into my mum and dads room with my brother pouring us all a cheeky drink. Relief wasn’t the word! I was absolutely ecstatic! I cannot thank my family, close friends and all those whom helped me get my medical in the end. A special thanks to the consultant whom conducted the tests and leased with the CAA.
I then went to sleep and was later woken up by a 6.7 magnitude Earthquake – a day to be remembered for two reasons!
Medical’s can be a tough and soul destroying process, If you have any condition/problem you wish to ask me about – please drop me a message via the contact page! I will endeavour to help you find the right medical professionals to help!