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Stay safe » Instructor Medical - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which doctors can I go to for an instructor medical?
A: It depends on whether you wish to have a Tandem Instructor Medical or just a Solo Instructor Medical.
Form 116 (Tandem Instructor Medical Certificate) can only be completed by doctors who are approved aviation medical examiners, who have a qualification in aviation medicine or who have significant knowledge of parachuting by virtue of also being a parachute instructor.
Form 116A (Solo Parachute Instructor Medical Certificate) can be completed by a GP who holds your NHS medical record, the Unit Medical Officer with access to your military medical record, any other doctor who obtains access to your current NHS/Military medical record, or any of the doctors who are allowed to complete the Tandem Instructor medical certificate.
Q: I have heard that all instructors will now need a doctor’s certificate to continue instructing. I am already an instructor but only have a self declaration on the old Form 114. Do I have to stop instructing until I get a doctor’s certificate?
A: No. Your self declaration on Form 114 remains valid until midnight on 31 March 2018, provided you are still under the age of 40. You would be wise to plan to obtain your Solo Parachute Instructor doctor’s certificate (Form 116A) well in advance of that date, but it will not be mandatory until then.
Q: I will be attending a Basic Instructor Course or Exam Course between August 2017 and March 2018. Can I use the old Self Declaration (on Form 114 or 115E) when attending that course and get my doctor’s certificate later, eg at the end of March 2018?
A: Yes, you CAN, but you will still need to obtain a doctor’s certificate on Form 116A if continuing to instruct after 31 March 2018. If you think there may be eyesight or other medical conditions which may make it difficult to obtain a certificate, you would be wise to get these sorted out well in advance.
Q: I already have a tandem instructor doctor’s certificate (Form 116). Do I need a further doctor’s certificate on Form 116A to allow me to act as a Category System or AFF instructor?
A: No. Your Tandem Instructor doctor’s certificate (Form 116) covers you for all forms of parachute instructing and for jumping as a licenced parachutist. Similarly a Solo Parachute Instructor doctor’s certificate (Form 116A) is valid both for solo parachute instructing and for jumping as a licensed parachutist.
Q: I already have a valid doctor’s certificate on the old Form 114. Do I now need a new doctor’s certificate on the new Form 116A?
A: No. Your old doctor’s certificate on Form 114 remains valid for the interval specified on the form and can be used until that date. The 'Notes for Doctors' on the form specifically mention the possibility of an instructor role and so the form remains valid for instructing. Once your Form 114 doctor’s certificate has passed its date of validity, you should obtain a new doctor’s certificate on Form 116A.
Q: I have just obtained a doctor’s certificate of fitness on the new Form 115F (solo parachutist). Do I now need a new doctor’s certificate on the new Form 116A to act as an instructor?
A: Yes, unfortunately you will do from 1 April 2018. The new Form 115 makes no mention of an instructor role or instructor responsibility. It is set at a lower level of fitness than would normally be required for instructing and allows the candidate to negotiate accepting extra risk.
Q: My own GP or Consultant Specialist doesn’t want to be involved in assessing me or issuing Form 116A. What should I do?
A: Read the first paragraph of page 2 of BPA Form 116A for details of how to find a doctor who is likely to be willing to do this sort of medical. Alternatively, ask your nearest flying club about who does their pilots' medicals. You can approach any other doctor in your area for a private sports medical, though they may first need to have sight of a copy of your NHS medical record.
Q: The doctor doing my private medical wants to see my NHS medical record. How can I obtain this?
A: The Data Protection Act entitles you to obtain a copy of your NHS record from your GP. Nowadays most GPs have your current records and a lifetime summary on a computer database, with your old paper records kept in storage. At present (2017) you can make a written application for a printout of your entire computerised record for a maximum charge of £10. From 25 May 2018, even this charge is eliminated by the Data Protection General Regulation. Obtaining copies of old records held purely on paper can be more expensive but is rarely necessary.
Q: My own GP/specialist/AME says I am not medically fit to act as an instructor. What can I do?
A: Your doctor is required to consider not just your fitness to jump but also your fitness to reliably teach and supervise a novice parachutist. Inevitably there will be some medical conditions which are usually incompatible with this role. While a licensed parachutist may reasonably negotiate accepting a little extra risk for themselves, there is not the same leeway to negotiate accepting extra risks to your students. Your own GP/specialist probably knows more about you than any other doctor. If your own doctor feels you have unacceptable risks for instructing, it is fairly unlikely that any other doctor will certify you as fit, and at the very least you should carefully consider your doctor’s advice. If your doctor wishes advice on whether you are fit to instruct, he/she can telephone BPA HQ for contact details of the BPA’s Medical adviser. The Association’s Medical Adviser will not try to alter your doctor’s decision in any particular direction but will simply provide advice. This advice can sometimes include suggestions for ways of mitigating medical risk to that certification can continue.
Q: Why is the advice about blood donation so complicated? Couldn’t you just have a short fixed time after donation before returning to jumping?
A: Until 2017, the BPA Operations Manual had contained a fairly blunt statement that 'Sport parachutists are advised that parachuting and giving blood are not compatible'. The new medical forms are intended to allow a more flexible approach to this socially beneficial activity without putting safety or performance at risk.
The volume of donated fluid is replaced quite rapidly but the return of full oxygen carrying capacity is less predictable. This is important for performance above 8000ft and and for avoidance of hypoxia related problems. With drop zones regularly operating at altitudes of up to 15,000ft, jumpers are already at the edge of their hypoxia tolerance even when in perfect health. A large framed well muscled young jumper giving blood for the first time and having a diet rich in iron would normally be expected to have a fairly rapid return to normal blood levels but a small framed jumper with iron stores depleted by recurrent donation, a vegetarian diet or heavy/long periods may have a prolonged recovery.
The reality is that the BPA has no knowledge of, or control over, what you do when away from the drop-zone. However, the Association does have a responsibility to give advice to help you retain full function when supervising students at altitude.
Q: My own Doctor is not sure whether I am fit to instruct. What should my doctor do?
A: Your doctor can telephone BPA HQ for contact details for the BPA Medical Adviser. Sometimes a doctor may need to send you on for further tests or refer you to an aviation medicine specialist before reaching a conclusion. Unless these tests or referrals are also needed for your direct medical care, the NHS will not normally provide them and you may have to pay for them.
Q: I have a medical condition and I’m not sure if I will be OK to instruct and to get a medical certificate. Can you tell me if I will be OK to instruct, to save me contacting my own doctor?
A: Sorry, NO. Your own GP or specialist has the most detailed technical information about you. Please read BPA Form 116/116A and then take it to your own GP or specialist for advice.
Q: I have a medical condition that is not mentioned on BPA Form 116/116A but would like advice on whether it affects my fitness to jump. Who can advise me?
A: Approach your own GP or specialist with BPA Form 116/116A.
Q: I have a doctor’s certificate on Form 116/116A stating I am fit to instruct but am concerned that I may no longer be fit. What should I do?
A: Do not act as an instructor unless you feel fit both mentally and physically to do so. Approaching your doctor at an early stage can help to resolve a medical problem before it becomes a permanent safety issue. If you still have concerns after approaching your own doctor, please contact the BPA Medical Adviser. BPA HQ can provide contact details.
Q: My doctor wants to charge me £80 for this medical but my friend’s doctor did theirs for only £10. Why don’t you have a low fixed price for this sort of thing?
A: In Britain it is against the law to try to set a fixed price for this sort of service. It is between the doctor and applicant to negotiate a mutually acceptable fee. You are free to shop around.
Q: A friend or relative, who is also a parachute instructor, has a medical condition that may be placing them, their students or other parachutists at risk. They have not had medical advice or have had it and are ignoring it. What should I do?
A: If your relationship permits it, discuss with the affected instructor and make them aware of your concerns. If this is not practicable, or if you feel the problem is not resolved, you may contact their doctor, their chief instructor or the BPA’s Safety and Technical Officer. Although this can be a difficult step to take, it is important to remember that instructors are directly responsible for the safety of student parachutists.
Q: My patient has approached me with form 116/116A but I am still unsure about their fitness to instruct.
A: Please contact BPA HQ to obtain contact details for the Association’s Medical Adviser.
Q: My patient has asthma and I am not sure whether they are fit to jump. Can I have some advice?
A: Please download BPA Form 252 ‘Asthma and Skydiving’ from the BPA website. If this does not answer the question, please telephone BPA HQ for contact details of the Association’s Medical Adviser.
Q: An instructor has a doctor’s certificate but the doctor has added extra information to the form. What does it mean and where does this leave me?
A: Additional medical information on the form will usually invalidate it. A Parachute Training Organisation or Chief Instructor are not expected to interpret extra medical information (even when the handwriting is legible!). If the instructor is unable to obtain a 115F free of additional medical statements, they should not jump. Non-medical information or limitations restricting parachuting may sometimes be allowable if they directly refer to parachuting activity and are easily understood by the PTO/CI (eg 'Red-Green Colour Blind', 'Must wear glasses/contact lenses', 'Maximum Altitude 12,000 feet').
Q: An instructor has a doctor’s certificate of fitness but I don’t feel they are fit / I feel they are not up to it / they can’t do all the things I feel they should be able to do / I believe they may have an undeclared medical condition. What should I do?
A: The Chief Instructor has the last word on who can jump at the drop zone and who can act as an instructor there. Possession of a doctor’s certificate should never get in the way of either poor performance or worrying patterns of behaviour being properly addressed. BPA HQ can provide contact details for the Association’s Medical Adviser if you need further medical advice. If you have safety concerns about an instructor and the concerns have not been resolved or you believe they may move on to work elsewhere, please contact the Association's Chief Operating Officer or Safety & Technical Officer.
Q: An instructor has a signed doctor’s certificate but no doctor’s stamp. Is this valid?
A: There are some doctors who do not possess a rubber stamp but who are still qualified to give a medical assessment. The purpose of the stamp is to allow clear and legible identification of, and contact details for, the signing doctor. Provided hand written details meet this criterion, they are acceptable.
Updated 18 August 2017