Review: Class One Medical with Centreline Aviation Medical Services
On Monday 19th March 2018, I attended Centreline Aviation Medical Services’ Central London surgery at 22 Upper Wimpole Street in Marylebone to complete my Class One Medical examination.
I first enquired about making an appointment approximately 2 months previous. After an initial phone call, I was asked for an email address so that they could send me what can be described as a joining email. Within this email you will initially find the dates that are available for appointments as well as all the information on what you’ll need to take with you and what to expect on the day. They advise you that the medical should take around four hours but that you should allow longer for any complications or delays. They also attach a CAA Med-160 Form, more about that later.
To make an appointment, I had to chose a date from the list provided in the joining email and call them back to chose a time. I was given a choice of either 09:00 or 09:30, so I chose 09:30 whilst thinking ‘maybe the rush hour traffic won’t be so bad’. How wrong I was? To finalise my booking, I had to pay the full amount over the phone, which was £540.00. Its important to start your preparation for your medical in the right way. So definitely no alcohol 24-48hrs before your appointment, a good nights sleep the night before and a good breakfast on the morning. You should also keep in mind your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant and as much as many of us, myself included, need a helping hand first thing in the morning, you will also want your body in a completely natural state for tests such as the ECG. I also made the decision to take a taxi to the surgery, rather than try and tackle public transport during rush hour London.
Upon arriving at the surgery, I was met by a receptionist. Its worth saying now that throughout the four hours or so that I was there, all the staff I interacted with were brilliant for a range of different reasons. The receptionist took my completed Med-160 Form from me and showed me to the waiting room. Whilst I was in the waiting room, Dr Chris King came in and introduced himself to me and told me that I’d be with him for the doctor’s examination later in the day. You will be told after each stage of your medical whether you have passed that particular stage or if there are any issues to discuss.
As I mentioned earlier, a copy of the Med-160 Form will be attached to the joining email you first received from Centreline, but you can also download a copy from the CAA’s website here. The Med-160 form is a comprehensive questionnaire about your flying experience to date and both your personal and aviation medical history, as well as some of the standard information you find on any CAA form of this type. Make sure you answer all the questions honestly, using a black pen and in capital letters. If you get stuck with any of the sections on the form there is a guidance page attached.
The first part of my day was sight tests. I have been required to wear glasses and contact lenses since I was 15 years old and have a restriction on my EASA Class Two Medical that means I must always wear lenses or glasses when flying and carry a spare pair of both in flight. For those of you in the same situation as me, you will be used to some of the examinations that I am about to describe. Your joining email will tell you that if you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must bring with you your glasses, lenses and a copy of your prescription from the last six months.
The first and most well known test is the Refraction Test, it involves the use of the wall chart and various lenses to check your vision. If you wear glasses/contact lenses like me, you’ll do it once with lenses in, one with glasses on and once without either. Next, your doctor will produce a book called Ishihara’s Test for Colour Deficiency. Each page contains a large circle made up of smaller circles or various colour, some of which are arranged to make a number. You will be asked to identify the number. On some of the pages, there won’t be a number. You simply have to tell the doctor that there isn’t a number. An example of one of the pages is as follows:
The next test is your Visual Field Test, which takes place one eye at a time, the other will be covered by a patch. Pirate jokes at the ready! You will be asked to place your chin on a small ledge facing into a dome shape and be given a trigger button. You will be asked to concentrate on the centre of the dome. Once the test begins, small lights will randomly appear around the dome. You must click the trigger every time you see a light. Each of these tests take place for a few minutes at a time. The last part of your sight test will involve an eye examination. The doctor spent some time with me, staring at my eye through a lens using a bright light. He also took some images of the backs of my eye.
Height, Weight & Urine
Next up, I was called into another office where I was directed to a toilet and asked to provide a sample of my urine into a small pot. For those of you that have provided urine samples in the past, you know what happens and for those of you that haven’t……lets just say its hardly the most dignifying thing to do.
After thoroughly washing my hands, I went back into the office where I was asked to remove my shoes to have myself weighed and my height measured using a wall mounted ruler. They use your height and weight to work out your Body Mass Index. Body Mass Index or BMI as its more commonly referred to is an attempt to work out an individuals tissue mass (bone, muscle or fat) and categorise them as under weight, normal weight, over weight or obese. You can work out your BMI using the following calculator provided by the National Health Service:
The doctor will be looking for you to have a BMI of no higher than 35, and the closer you are to 35, the sterner their advice to lose weight will be!
ECG & Lung Capacity
After another short wait back in the waiting room, I was summoned into the doctors office. I was asked to remove my top and lie flat on a bed. The doctor then attached a series of sticky pads to various parts of my torso and one on the inside of my ankle. To these sticky pads, the doctor then attached a series of cables connected to a machine. I was then asked to lie completely still and as relaxed as possible for a couple of minutes while the machine took a reading. The ECG measures the electrical impulses passing through your heart. It can show disorders of the heart rhythm or of the conduction of the impulses, and sometimes it can show a lack of blood supplying the heart muscle. Changes on an ECG require further investigation. A report from a cardiologist and further tests (for example an exercise ECG) may need to be done. The results of the ECG are not discussed until your doctors examination at the end.
After redressing, I was then asked to stand up straight and I was presented with a machine no bigger than a modern mobile phone, but with a cardboard tube extending from it. Two tests would be conducted with this machine. The first tested how long I could blow outwards after one large draw of breath. The doctor encouraged me to keep blowing into the tube until I could give no more. This test was performed twice and I was informed instantaneously that I’d passed. The second test, again with the same machine, tested how much air I could eject quickly, in a short space of time, again from one large breath in. Again, this was done twice, with some encouragement from the doctor and I was told I’d passed straight away.
For those of you that have undertaken a hearing test before, maybe at work, you’ll be very familiar with the set up at Centreline Aviation Medical Services. For those of you that haven’t, you’ll sit in a sound proof booth approximately the size of a telephone box. You wear a pair of ear defender style headphones and have a trigger button. Each ear will be tested separately, with different pitched beeps at progressively louder volumes played. You must click the trigger at the first instance of hearing the beep. Just click, do not hold as this distorts the results. The test takes around five minutes per ear, so about ten minutes in total. Its a fairly straight forward test with nothing to trip you up and you will be told your results instantly. There are a number of apps you are able to download to replicate these tests here.
The next part was the part I was most dreading. So I’m going to be as straight up with you as I was with the doctor, I HATE needles. And if you’re of the same mind set as me, you’re in luck! Before I let anything happen at this stage, I explained to the doctor my fear of needles and I have to say they brilliant about it. They explained to me that they wouldn’t be using a needle to take blood. Instead, they use what I would describe as a very small spike on a spring to make a small skin puncture on the end of your finger and then in turn, they drawn the blood from there. They took three small samples from me, each being placed into a small machine next to where I was sat. All in all, a much nicer experience in my opinion than the old fashioned needles.
It is important to, if you’re as fearful of this kind of thing as I am, mentally prepare yourself for this stage. I have heard many horror stories were people have got in for examinations and fainted at the sight of the needles or blood. This then gives the doctors good grounds to question the reasons as to why they fainted and refuse to issue a medical until they can prove that they can go five years without further episodes. A real tough pill to swallow.
They will be using your blood samples to check your haemoglobin levels (your bodies ability to carry oxygen) and your cholesterol levels. The results of your blood tests will be talked about during your doctors examination later on.
So, to the final stage of my examination. The Doctors Examination. The first thing I was asked to do is to remove all my clothes, apart from my underwear and lie down on a bed. The doctor used a small rub hammer to knock against my joints to check my joint’s reactions to the pressure. Next the doctor had a short check of my organs in my midriff area. And finally, I was asked to stand, back straight, eyes closed for a short period of time to check my natural balance. For this one, you don’t want to be seen to be swaying or leaning.
After redressing, I sat down with the doctor to talk through the results from the urine sample, blood tests and ECG results. The doctor will also run through the Med-160 Form with you to ensure all the information you put down is correct. If the doctor runs through all of the areas without a problem, you’ll be issued with your very own EASA Class One Medical Certificate. For me personally, I had a small anomaly in my ECG results. The doctor explained that he would have to refer my results to a Cardiologist, but, if I was being examined under FAA regulations, I would’ve passed without an issue. Anyway, the following Friday, I received my very own EASA Class One Medical Certificate! A real weight off my shoulders and another hurdle jumped in my goal of becoming a commercial pilot.
If you have any questions about your own health and how it could effect you quality for a EASA Class One, the CAA have produced some in-depth Guidance Material for you to read through.
You can also find out more information on each medical required on our website.