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Have you ever had any medical issues that held you back from becoming a real pilot? Do you face too much undue trouble when trying to get your medical renewed? Do you see it being a huge hassle?

I tell you about my experience recently, from getting glasses, to multiple sclerosis, to kidney stones. There’s good news, bad news, and some REALLY good news about the future of third class medicals.

Additionally, I talk about my first time flying in a Redbird Simulator. Of course, my wife really rocked at it, but I didn’t do too bad myself. Get my thoughts and feelings on it, and how it wraps into other discussions we’ve had about Redbird.

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AeroSphere in Denver

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Transcript

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Chris: This is AviatorCast episode 19. One airway, one way point, and one VOR at a time!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff! Here’s your host, Chris Palmer!
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast! My name is Chris Palmer. By ski or float or wheel or skid, it doesn’t matter what kind of landing contraption, if it flies, I love it. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of aviator cast will have a real flight training and a flight simulation topic or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
It is great to be with you on this, the 19th episode of AviatorCast. A lot has been happening for me recently. My wife and I moved back to Alaska from Hawaii where she had been finishing up school. So she graduated actually in the middle of April and so for the last several months really, we’ve been travelling home, trying to get back, seeing some family along the way, and we’re just now getting settled in. The weather is obviously much different between Hawaii and Alaska, but we’re happy to be home where we belong. I have to tell you, aviation is a way of life here, and I got a good taste of that right as we got home. So we flew in on a Saturday and that same day, actually we flew in Friday night, but the next morning on Saturday, I went to the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering. This was actually a much larger event than I thought it was going to be but they had a lot of great display aircraft out front. They actually had a FedEx and UPS MD-11 out front, so you could go in there and see the cockpit which I did and talked to the pilots a little bit. That was really cool.
And then on the inside of this big FedEx hangar, they had 250 vendors. So I made my way around and talked to some people. I flew in a full motion Piper Cub simulator. I talked to the people over at Cirrus Aircraft and looked at their beautiful new machine, the Generation 5 Cirrus SR 22 Turbo and that was beautiful, and a lot of other things. I tried to enter a raffle to win a Piper Cub, a real airplane, and didn’t win that. I think I was competing with thousands of other people. But all in all, it was a really, really great experience. I met a lot of cool people. And so I instantly got a taste of this Alaska aviation feeling. It’s a good welcome back home for me. And so from there, I’ve just been kind of getting settled in and starting out married life here and yeah, it’s been good. So we’re going to get into this episode and we’re going to talk about a couple topics today. We don’t actually have a guest today but we will have more guests coming up soon. I’m just in the process of lining those people up.
So as always, I start out with a review. So this review comes from Steve Kramer and his username is birdmedic, he is from the United States. He says “One of the bests, five stars.” I commute three hours one way for work as a fixed wing flight medic.” That’s pretty cool. “I have tried numerous aviation podcasts and AviatorCast is by far one of the bests. The blend of flight sim, safety and real world flight training has done very well. I find myself looking at the calendar to see how many days until the next episode if released. Chris Palmer is obviously very passionate about his business and flying. He brings a refreshing enthusiasm to each podcast episode. Keep up the great work and takes for making my commute much more entertaining.” – Steve Kramer, future pilot and long-time flight simmer.
So thanks Steve. I really appreciate that review. Yeah. I am passionate about what I do. I really love that we do some great things here with not only flight simulation but especially flight training. All of them come from the same love for aviation and that same need to want to do things correctly, to want to do things safely, and if we’re not flying for real, then we’re using a simulator to get those real flying skills better or kind of the opposite way around too. If we’re flying for real, then we I guess use a simulator and if we use simulator, then we want to be flying for real, right? So yeah, we’re all under the same room, we’re all happy and we can all sing Kumbaya. So thanks, thanks for that review Steve. And now we’re going to get into this episode, so let’s get into the flight training segment.
And now, the flight training segment…
Chris: Alright, so I have been going through this process recently of getting my medical renewed, yay. If you are not a real pilot, this is quite the process. Some of you who are used to it and it’s kind of just the same old thing. But for me, it always seems to be something that is kind of like pulling teeth. It seems like there’s always something different that comes up and I have to deal with something. So this process started for me anew when I was back in Hawaii several months ago. I realized that I really need to get those taken care right away, so I started to go through this process in Hawaii although my doctor was elsewhere. Went through the whole process, determined that first of all, I did not have the vision to pass the medical. So first and foremost, I had to get glasses, yes, glasses. I ran to Walmart where I could get them the same day, I had them made. I got some nice polarized sunglasses to go on top of those, and I was off to the races. I had the vision component take care of that. Now, I think I may have mentioned this in the process episode of AviatorCast but I also have what’s called a special issue and some medical because I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 17.
This was a very difficult process initially to go through, the medical process with the FAA and get the approval. I had to do all sorts of tests to prove that I was fit to fly, and it ended up being one of the biggest accomplishments of my life to just keep pressing through that. There is also this multiple sclerosis part of my medical that was just kind of a recurring thing. This was what I was used to. I wasn’t too worried about that. So I went through this whole process in Hawaii. I got the medical paper sent off. Basically my doctor said “You know, I can’t really give you your medical because it’s expired and so I’m going to have to send this in to the FAA. I just don’t have the approval I think I need to give you this medical certificate. So that’s what we did. We send it in to the FAA in Oklahoma which is a bit of a process. I waited weeks and weeks and part of that was because I was travelling and they had sent mail to my address here in Alaska, and so I really didn’t know what was going on.
Now, kind of rewind a little bit. When I got into Alaska, I went to the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering like I told you about. I met a really great guy there from ATP medicine and he has been helping me out. He is an FAA medical guy up here, a doctor. He has been helping me out, kind of cut through the red tape if you will and figure out how we can get my medical done. So this process has actually been kind of a breath of fresh air because I feel like I kind of have someone on my side and especially someone here locally in Alaska that I can lean on. We started going through this process and guess what the FAA said? They came back and said “Okay, the vision is fine. MS is fine, we get that, everything is good there. But we see that you had kidney stones in 2011 so we want more information on that.” Now, this almost seems like a joke to me. I know what their qualifications are for this sort of stuff but I had kidney stones one time and I didn’t have any before then, no problems them and nothing afterwards, so I just think to myself “This seems like kind of a joke.” I went through all these. The MS is fine, the glasses are fine, the vision, all that, but now kidney stones.”
So basically, as far as I understand at this point in time, I have to essentially get scanned that proved that I am clear of kidney stones and I’m not going to have any more kidney stones, and then they’ll basically clear for me. But for me, being on a tight budget, running a small business, wanting to get my float rating and do some other things this year to increase my knowledge and skills in aviation, that’s a lot of money to just slap down to say “Yeah, I’m clear.” That’s kind of what I’m struggling with right now, and I know we’ve talked about this medical issue a lot. Especially with you flight simmers out there actually because one of the big things for flight simmers that keeps them from actually taking real flight lessons is that often it’s a medical thing. They just simply can’t get their medical certificate. And so many of you maybe feel my pain. Maybe you’ve had to go through a difficult process like this to actually get your medical, or maybe you’ve gone through this process before and you didn’t get your medical and so that’s kind of a frustrating thing. Or maybe you have a disqualifying condition, something like that. So it is a very frustrating process.
That’s where I’m kind of at right now. I’m in limbo, wondering what’s going to happen next and obviously I’m following up on some of those things, but it is a bit frustrating. I don’t know if you out there listening to my voice, if you’re having these sort of issues. I would like to hear about your challenges with getting a medical certificate. So if you want to go to AviatorCast.com, leave a comment on this episode, episode 19, I’d love to hear from you, I’d love to interact with you on this topic, and just tell me. What’s your story? What’s your medical issue? And just voice your opinion there as well. We’ll share in each other’s pain in other words.
So from there, there’s actually some good news. Recently, the AOPA is working with the FAA or rather their pilots and they’re getting a lot of support for something that will really help us out in this particular situation. There are three different classes of medical. There’s a first class, a second class, and a third class. AOPA is working on the third class medical certificate which would essentially be done with just a driver’s license. So that would mean that if you can qualify for a driver’s license, that is all that is required to get your medical certificate for a third class medical. Now, that is someone that is a private pilot. You can’t be a commercial pilot but you can still carry passengers and things. Third class medical. So that is actually looking really, really promising at this point. It’s looking like this might actually become a reality. It just makes common sense to me that this is the next logical step to getting your medical, is if I can qualify to drive, heck, that’s a dangerous world out there, we all know that driving around, why can’t we do it in an airplane for that sort of thing?
And I understand that if you’re a commercial operator, you’re carrying passengers, we should be a little bit more strict like that. So it makes sense to the first and second class would remain as the strict guidelines that we’ve kind of talked about here with the FAA. But if we’re just taking our friends and family and it’s no more dangerous than what we’d be doing in a car, why not allow pilots to do that with a third class medical? This is a great thing. This means that more of us are going to be able to get back into flying. It means that it kind of takes away the cost of it all, some of the frustrations from a lot of it. It could mean a lot of great things for the aviation industry. So that is big positive coming up. Now, in my particular case, I still have to go for at least a second class medical because I’m working on getting my CFI, my certified flight instructor, so I still have to go for that second class and I still have to work through all of this process. That’s a little bit of news, that’s a little bit of about what I’ve been going through, and I just want to share with you guys kind of that personal side of what’s been going on in my pilot life if you will, because I know that a lot of you share that sort of pain, and that’s basically the gist of it. So again, if you want to comment on this, just go to AviatorCast.com. We can continue the discussion there. Otherwise, let’s get over to the flight simulation segment.
And now, the flight simulation segment…
Chris: Alright, alright. So here we are in the flight simulation segment. Recently while I was in my travels going from Hawaii back to Alaska, I had stopped in California and Utah and made my way over to Denver and up to Wyoming and then back to Utah and then finally back home to Alaska. Now, during those travels, I stopped to see my good friend Trevor Bear in Denver. You may have remembered Trevor from one of the previous episodes. In that episode and in another episode actually with Shane Schmidt which was just several episodes back, we talked a lot about Redbird Simulators. Redbird is a company out of Texas. They’re breaking a lot of ground with full motion, general aviation simulators that are quite affordable for flight schools and for different just small outfits that can use that sort of technology in their training programs. What happened was I actually went out and hang out with Trevor for a day. My wife came with me. We went out to the Longmont Airport there in Denver and we kind of sat on the ramp with this food truck and we had a good burger and watched the airplanes and watched the parachuters, talked about all the different operations there and the beautiful airplanes and the kind of jets that come in every now and again, that sort of thing, that sort of pilot talk that you would have sitting down with your friend, getting a feel for what that airport is like, dreaming that you were the one up there in that nice, spring sun. But that wasn’t our purpose for the day.
So we finished up lunch and then we headed over to Trevor’s friend’s place. His name is Shane and Shane runs Aero-Sphere. If you want to go to that website, it’s Aero-Sphere.com. So what they do at Aero-Sphere is they actually have one of these Redbird FMX simulators and this is what our big thing was for the day. We were going to go and fly the Redbird. This would be my initial journey with a Redbird. Now I know many of you may have actually flown one of these and heard of them. I actually felt quite privileged to just go and test one of these out. I didn’t have to pay for it. Shane was kind enough because I’m sharing this publicly that he kind of allowed us in there on a media basis I guess you would call it. So basically what happened is we changed out the panels, so we changed it from a basic 6 and then we just dropped in a G1000 panel. I though instantly that was pretty cool because you could switch out the panels so quickly. So we dropped in G1000 panel, we jumped in there.
Trevor kind of knew his way around and he run the simulator for us, and my wife flew first. I said, “Hey, jump in the left seat. I’ll kind of show you around.” She’s never flown an airplane before. She hasn’t even really messed with my simulator that much. So she sat in the left seat and I sat on the right seat and I gave her some pointers, and I was really, really surprised. She was really good at it. She could taxi pretty well. It was one of those things where, she doesn’t even know about the controls. She doesn’t know what the controls do, so this was a complete introduction. I said “Okay, the feet steer you on the ground” sort of thing, “the toes touch the breaks,” “this is the power,” and there was prop and mixture but I didn’t tell her about that and didn’t really have to worry about that. And then “you pull back to go up, you push down to go forward. Once we’re in the air, you turn this way.” I mean, my wife is really good. She’s good at almost everything. She’s a super smart person and so really no surprise.
She just kind of pushes the throttle up, she eases forward, no big deal. She’s using the rudder pedals and she’s staying right on that taxiway centerline, pulling out on the runway. She lines up with the runway, she’s all centered. I say “Okay, well you can push the throttle forward now,” so she does that. She goes full throttle. I make sure it’s full force so the takeoff would be easier, and she just dances on those rudder pedals like it’s no big deal, going down the runway, centerline, and then I said “Okay, you can pull back now.” She pulls back. Man, I could not believe she did that good, but she went through that process. She kind of did a pattern there, and it was a little more difficult for her once she got on the air but she went around the simulator. These simulators are really cool because the motion component to a simulator really does matter. It gives you that feel as if you’re there. And the wraparound visuals give you that feel as if you’re there. Instead of having a flight simulator like most of us do with this 20 some odd inch screen in front of us, I think mine is a 24-inch, something like that on my particular simulator. Instead of just having one screen like that, you can actually look to your right, look out the right hand side of the airplane, you can look to your left. Gives you much a better feel. And plus having that motion and having all the sound in there and having a really, really great set of controls where you’re actually flipping switches for everything rather than flipping the switches visually and digitally right within your simulator on the screen.
So very cool, very immersive. That’s the first impression I had. So Chelsea, my wife and I, we kind of did the pattern. She came back in. She tried to land. It was okay. She landed on the grass. She almost landed made it to the runway, and she did a pretty good job. I had her kind of power up and take off again and then we went to try to land somewhere else. That one, she piled up pretty good but for the most part she did a fantastic job. And during that leg, I introduced her to the flight director which is cheating and the autopilot and stuff. I didn’t actually put her on autopilot but I just kind of showed her around like what this stuff does. So from there, Trevor and I flew. I actually flew in the left seat. Trevor was kind enough to actually let me do all the flying. I think probably because he gets to do this a lot since he lives just a couple of minutes down the street. So that was nice of him.
So I jumped in the left seat and we went and we did some IFR. I said “Hey, just load it up. Give me zero visibility or minimums and let’s go test this out.” So I got up in the air. Man, I was really off for a minute or two. I was really having a hard time controlling my heading and my altitude and all sorts of stuff. I was just off my game. And then I just got a little more focused and we went in and we did an ILS into Austin and I’ve actually flown in there in real life on an ILS before with some kicking winds and some rain but, that’s a story for a different time. So anyway, in the simulator, we did an ILS and it was down to minimums. We broke out of the clouds and the runway was right there. It all operated really beautifully. Along the way, the G1000 just worked really, really well. There were some minor differences for trademark and copyright reasons that Redbird had to change to make it a little bit different in the Garmin stuff.
But overall, just really, really impressive on how realistic it was and how much your mind can buy into it being a realistic situation. So that’s what we did. We did that ILS and then we took off out of there. Trevor cleared the weather, and we just went straight ahead and he started showing me “Okay, you can fail this which are circuit breakers, you can fail the flaps,” and sure enough all of that stuff. The circuit breakers would pop out, the flaps wouldn’t work, and you’d get all of the consequences because of that. And then we decided to go for the ultimate which is fail the engine. So Trevor failed the engine. We were far enough away and high enough up that I turned back to the airport and tried to line up with the runway and glide back but I didn’t have enough distance and altitude to get there so I ended up stopping before then which was all good, good lessons and just kind of a test really.
But this goes back to what we’ve talked about a lot in AviatorCast which is scenario-based training. If you remember the episode with Shane Schmidt, this is a big, big thing that Redbird is a proponent of right now is that you can learn in a simulator like this, you can learn by SBT and you can come out a better pilot because of it. And after having flown the Redbird simulator, I can definitely attest to that. Now, have I done a full course with a simulator like this? Has it been a major part of curriculum that I’ve done before? No. However, I know that a simulator in and of itself, this one I have here at home has been absolutely integral every step of the way to me becoming a pilot. I’ve been able to come home after a flight lesson and I get to fly unlimited hours just practicing and practicing and practicing different navigation techniques or approaches or whatever it is, getting into the flow and feel of the aircraft and that IFR system. There are so many different things a simulator can do for you in building great habits.
So taking that to the next level in flying a Redbird simulator with full motion and all the controls right there and the wraparound visuals. It really starts to trick your mind into thinking that you are flying. However, then you can do things you would never do in an airplane which is cut the engine or do a flaps failure or some other failure that would just be kind of stupid to do in a real airplane, to put yourself in that sort of danger unnecessarily. So yeah, this was really great experience. I challenge you guys, especially if you are in the Denver area. Give Aero-Sphere a call. You check out their website, get their number from there, and talk to Shane. Aero-Sphere.com. I’ll put that in the show notes as well. This was a really great experience. It’s worth going and trying it out for an hour. I really enjoyed. I’m a big proponent of Redbird. Excited about what they’re doing in the flight simulation market, and that simulation that is being used in flight training at a high level.
So for you guys that have been flight simmers for so many years, you may asked yourself the question “Why don’t real pilots take flight simulation more seriously?” and I can tell you that today, more and more pilots are taking flight simulation as an actual platform, much more serious for an integral part of their training than ever before. And it’s growing and growing and growing and it’s become and more appreciated. I definitely experienced that with the Redbird and I can only imagine that that will continue to go forward in that same way. So what do you think about the future of simulation and how Redbird will play in to all of these? If you have a comment about that or anything about the Redbird simulator, go ahead and go to AviatorCast.com. Comment on this episode. We have discussion going on there if you want to chat. And that’s it.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on AviatorCast. You can truly shape this show and the topics we provide. Take a simple, quick 2-minute survey at survey.AviatorCast.com. Do you want to be a part of the AviatorCast community or leave a comment kind of like I just mentioned, if so go to AviatorCast.com to join in or write me directly at me@aviatorcast.com. Say that you don’t want to miss an episode of AviatorCast, really simple. No worries there. You can subscribe through email at AviatorCast.com on iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube or SoundCloud. The big main one is iTunes, that’s where most podcasts come through and kind of the one that we focus on the most. We’d love hear your honest review on iTunes. This helps others learn about AviatorCast and then they can enjoy it as well. And it helps pump up our ratings and just get more visibility. If nothing else, we’d love for you to be able to do that for us if you enjoy AviatorCast. That would be very much appreciated.
If you’d like to check out some of our training products at Angle of Attack, head to FlyAOAmedia.com. Start with the basics for free with Aviator90. Learn instrument flying and more with Aviator Pro or even fly many of the world’s most popular jets virtually with our training products for the 737, 747, 777 and MD-11. Again, at FlyAOAmedia.com. So in closing, many thanks also go to the Angle of Attack crew for all their hard work to make episodes like this episode possible and all they do outside of AviatorCast just to keep things running from day to day. I’m only one guy, there’s only so much I can do, only so much time in the day, and we have a lot of great people at Angle of Attack helping us out. I won’t say a lot because it’s not like we are this huge corporation but the people we do have which is a good handful, they are just fantastic and I really appreciate all they do.
And to you, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We are truly grateful to have you here, truly part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things. Until next time, throttle on!

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  • mikewings

    Chris.. I also ran up against the issues of FAA medical with one bout of Kidney Stones. I had one on my birthday in 2004 and never have had any problems since but the FAA, in its infinite wisdom wanted me to go through hoops not only on making sure I had no other retained stones, but if I did they wanted me to go through surgery to remove them. At that point I decided to fly under Sport Pilot rules and have been doing so ever since with absolutely no kidney stone problems. Its one of their hot button medical topics and more reason to push for the driver’s license medical. I am sure you are aware that if you go through the application process and get denied your only option is to press on to get that issue resolved, because once denied a medical you can not fly under Sport Pilot rules..

    GOOD LUCK

    • This is all very helpful. Thanks a million. I’m working with a doctor right now that is very helpful. I hope to get to the bottom of it and push it through.

      It’s something that I’ve done before, and I know it takes a measured amount of determination.

      It’s simply another round!

  • Brian C.

    Chris, I’m actually dealing with an FAA medical deferral right now. I’m 2.7 hrs into my PPL and just had my Class III medical on Wednesday. I was deferred due to my vision. I already wear glasses, but have limited ability to use the vision in my right eye (peripheral vision is excellent, but I’m extremely left-eye dominant to the point focusing with my right eye is an issue). As a result I have to get a SODA waiver from the FAA, which will require a trip to Indianapolis (I live about 2.5 hrs South). Doc said he didn’t think I’d have a problem in the air, they’d just want to make sure I can taxi without hitting anything. Said since I don’t have a problem driving, should be no issue for me to satisfy their requirements. Also mentioned that the process takes about 2 months for the FAA to approve the waiver. My instructor also reassured me, said he knows a pilot with a glass eye & that I shouldn’t be concerned. Ironically, this was actually the first episode of your podcast I’ve listened to, and I’m glad I did. I was encouraged to hear from others dealing with the FAA medical process, and very encouraged to hear about the AOPA push to get driver’s license accepted as sufficient clearance for Class III. Thanks for the information, and good luck with getting the issues resolved for your medical renewal!

  • Pat N

    Chris, I too struggled with getting my initial third class due to past medical problems (stress-induced intestinal problems four years previous to the medical). If you think
    about it from the FAA’s perspective, it becomes a bit clearer- they want to
    make damn sure you don’t have any lingering conditions that could cause a
    flight safety problem if you had an “attack” in flight. Kidney stones definitely fit that category,
    as did my intestinal issues. So even though you think you’re fine, they need to make sure. I know it totally sucks for a small business owner who is paying for all the tests yourself, but it does kind of make sense. Good luck, I hope it goes well!

  • Hans B

    Hi my name is Hans. Beckmann ! I just want to say that your videos are great , just a little feedback constructive.

    The lower DU shoul,be off on normal operation , as this comes from Boeing Normal procedures , this is in case an engine failure the lower DU will turn on authomatically , as this is to capt the attention of the crew , in case of N-1 , also the Upper DU shoul be in Compact mode. That’s all , your video is great , I hope this info helps.
    Cheers
    Hans ( throttle on).

  • Larry D Gregory

    Chris,

    Great episode and all too familiar. My Class II is on hold after having cataract surgery.

    Hoping to resume flying soon. I also have a SODA which will probably need to be updated. FAA folks down the road in Oklahoma City are easy to work with, in my experience over the last 46 years. One comment about polarized sunglasses – FAA does not recommend them. Go to http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/sop:no-polarized-sunglasses-for-pilots for a good summary with links to FAA articles.
    Throttle On !

    • Just because they don’t recommend them doesn’t mean I don’t use them. I have found the glasses to reduce my eye fatigue over time, and they don’t interrupt with the avionics like everyone says. It just depends on the degree of polarization in the glasses.

      Glad you’re getting things worked out!

      • Larry D Gregory

        Thanks for the “user input”. I will be needing new sunglasses too, so that may be the way to go.
        I have downloaded all AviatorCast episodes to a flash drive and am listening in the car as I commute. I’m only 15 episodes behind.

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