November 3, 2021

How pilots can improve medical certificate process

Laura McLean


Many pilots are experiencing delays in the processing of either new or renewal medical certificates. While it can be frustrating to wait for your certificate, it’s important to realize how and where these delays stem from, and what steps you, as the pilot, can do to ensure your initial medical certificate or medical certificate renewal, is completed as efficiently as possible.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Medical team has continued to function. In anticipation of the pandemic, exemptions were drafted in advance of the shutdown in March 2020, to allow pilots to continue to fly. All pilots were granted a three-month extension. In addition, renewals by Attestations and by Telemedicine were introduced. However, the pandemic did create delays, as staff lost due to usual attrition were not able to immediately be replaced.

If you are a prospective student, looking to start flight training, the standard time for processing of a standard file is 40 business days from the time the file is received by Transport Canada. The sooner you can start the process, the sooner you’ll be able to receive your certificate. Additionally, there are exemptions to start training using at Category 4 medical, as you await your certificate. See exemption NCR-014-2021 here.

If you are looking to renew a current medical certificate, consider a Telemedicine appointment, if applicable to you.  If the Civil Aviation Medical Examiner determines that you are fit, you may be eligible for immediate renewal with a Telemedicine or in-person renewal appointment. Further information can be found at the following link.

Prior to the pandemic, approximately 5% of Civil Aviation Medical Examiners (CAME) were submitting files via Electronic Medical Examination Report, (eMER). Paper files sent to regional offices are subject to delays by Canada Post and require a lot of extra handling and processing within the Transport Canada offices. With the encouragement from Transport Canada, uptake for digital submissions has risen to an average of 80%. To avoid excessive delays, ensure your CAME is using eMER. By submitting electronically, a number of steps will be eliminated, such as mail wait times and the processing of the paper file by Transport Canada. In addition, the eMER won’t allow a submission with incomplete or missing information, meaning when the file is ready for review, all required information will be available. As Transport Canada works towards more digital submissions, it’s also important that pilots provide a current email address on their applications. Transport Canada will use that email to contact the pilot if any further documentation is required.

Something to remember is that if you have a complicated medical case, or your CAME has decided not to renew based on new medical information, it will take a longer period to work through the system. These files can take time and may require requests for further testing or documentation.