The tests undertaken as part of the Aviation Medical Examination for pilots and controllers can be brought to life by clicking on the title of each body part in the illustration below. Read on for more information about the tests carried out by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
NATS Aeromedical Centre
Body Systems Infographic
Your ability to think clearly and carry out appropriate actions is critical as an aviation professional. Advise your AME if you’ve had a head injury, seizures, sleep difficulty, depression, anxiety, problematic drug or alcohol use.
PSYCHIATRIC/ PSYCHOLOGICAL/ NEUROLOGICAL
Other checks – examining the eye in more detail will include testing for visual fields (ensuring you have the ability to detect peripheral movement), check pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure), optic disc health and the ability of the eyes to move together to enable a clear single image without blurriness or double vision.
Visual acuity – this is the ability to focus on objects and read at various distances – 6 metre, 1 metre and 30-50 cm distance.
Colour Vision - includes the ability to recognise the meaning of colour coded lights on the instrument panel or radar screen, differentiate red and white PAPI lights on approach, and recognise ground movement signals. The Ishihara colour plates are used as screening tests for both initial pilots and air traffic controller applicants.
Several aspects of vision are tested. Click the next button to learn more about tests relating to visual acuity, colour recognition and overall functioning.
You need to have clear airways working in conjunction with blood vessels to send adequate oxygen to your brain and other organs. Relevant conditions include asthma, lung clots and smoking history. We will listen to your breathing and tap over the chest to check the lungs.
We are checking for conditions that could affect your hearing, balance and ability to equalise ear pressure on descent. Physical examination will include looking inside your ears, nose and throat, and checking for signs of sinus blockage. A spoken voice test is carried out to check hearing in each ear. An audiogram will be carried out periodically.
At each medical, the urine is tested for blood (which can indicate kidney disease or stones), protein (kidney disease) and sugar (for diabetes).
An aviation medical examiner will listen to the heart checking for any signs of rhythm disturbance or heart valve concerns. Your risk of heart disease can be estimated from factors such as weight and height, blood pressure, smoking history and cholesterol.
You will be asked if you have had previous internal operations such as hernia repair or abdominal surgery. Problems with gut bleeding, pain or trapped gas can interfere with safe flight operation.
The AME will ask if you have had significant sun damage, any moles that have been removed or other skin conditions.
During a medical, the AME will examine your spinal movement and upper and lower limbs to make sure you can carry out all tasks relevant to your job.
Bones, Muscles, Nerves
It is important for men to check their testes regularly, checking for lumps or discomfort. Your AME will also ask if you have symptoms of enlarged prostate such as restricted urine flow or frequency.
Your AME will ask if you have noticed any symptoms such as breast lumps or pain, heavy menstrual bleeding that has caused anaemia, or if you have had any problems during pregnancy.
ECG (electrocardiogram) - records the electrical activity of the heart and is a screening test for possible underlying heart disease
Haemoglobin – This blood test is used to screen for anaemia, which at altitude can give symptoms of shortness of breath and make you more prone to hypoxia.
Cholesterol – This blood test forms part of the calculation of heart disease risk for an individual pilot or air traffic controller
Audiogram – It is vital for pilots and air traffic controllers to have good hearing for communication. This test checks the ability to hear at different frequencies, particularly within the human vocal range. The test involves wearing a headset and pressing a button when you hear the tone.
Respiratory function tests (spirometry) – The test involves breathing forcefully into a machine that measures your lung capacity and breathing flow rate.