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With Medical, Kentucky Man Can Finally Earn Private Pilot Certificate

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 28, 2017 - Dave Coldwell couldn’t imagine a better birthday present.

On Friday, two days after turning 60, the Bowling Green, Kentucky, man received his FAA special issuance medical certificate. It means he will finally be able to earn his private pilot certificate and fly the 1975 Cessna 172 he purchased nearly a year ago.

Dave knew he had a heart murmur since going into the Air Force in 1975, but it didn’t keep him out of the military, so he didn’t think much of it at the time. But in February 2014, he needed open-heart surgery for what his cardiologist and heart surgeon said was a birth defect.

So why did he buy an airplane just two years after having heart surgery, knowing it would be difficult to get his medical?

Dave said he loved aviation and always wanted a plane. So, when he saw a Clinton, Indiana, flying club was selling its plane, he bought it.

“Just months after my open-heart surgery, I started taking some lessons,” he said. “You can take lessons without your medical if a CFI is there. I took the written test, but I couldn’t even solo without my medical. Imagine my frustration.”

Starting in August 2016, Dave started the process to earn his medical. He went to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where they did more testing. He started collecting the voluminous amount of paperwork needed to prove he was medically able to fly.

President of EAA Chapter 1165, Dave decided to go to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the first time this year. He’s spent much of his time here in the FAA Pavilion.

“I had always heard rumors that the FAA wants to keep you out of the air,” he said. “That’s wrong. They just want to keep you safe in the air.”

With the help of FAA cardiology consultant John Raniolo, FAA Regional Flight Surgeon Daniel Berry, and FAA staffer Sarah Newton, Dave officially got the piece of paper he had waited for.

“I know how it feels because I have my own problems,” John said. “When you’re not eligible for your medical, it really is a big defeat.”

Daniel said the FAA had a record 1,016 people that they helped with medical issues within the first four days of AirVenture. And that’s not including the busiest days.

“One guy yesterday had tears in his eyes,” he said. “He had been waiting for a year and a half to get his medical.”

While Dave may have to requalify every year for his medical, he encourages others with medical problems to not give up. “If you have the kind of condition that requires a special issuance medical, stick it out. Come to AirVenture, and sit down and talk.”

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