One pilot's story

 - August 4, 2008, 11:03 AM

Bob Keel, 53, is chief pilot and director of operations for Flying High Aviation in Dallas. He flies a Lockheed JetStar II. “I had done a routine physical with my doctor, and the stress test identified a potential blockage of my left anterior descending artery,” he told AIN. “Well, the particular test that was used is only about 80-percent accurate, so that meant I would either have to do a thallium stress test or a heart cath. The heart cath confirmed the problem, a cardiologist did an angioplasty and put a stent in the artery. The FAA requires that you wait six months after angioplasty before you can reapply for a medical. It’s a precautionary requirement because there is a chance for blockage within the stent. I was told a blockage was most likely to occur within the first three to six months if it’s going to happen. After about six months you’re all but assured there won’t be a reoccurring blockage, so the FAA rules on the side of caution.”

Keel waited for six months, and then it was time to reapply for a medical. The next problem that came up was during the follow-up heart cath. “They film all heart caths, and this one showed what appeared to be a blockage near the stint, so the feds kicked that back,” he said. “The FAA suggested I immediately have another stent in the spot that appeared to be blocked, then wait another six months to reapply. I could have done it their way and reapplied on my own with my cardiologist, but there’s no human factor with the FAA,” Keel said. “It’s either right or it’s not. They’ll kick the whole thing back to you and you have to reapply at the next board. The catch is the board meets only every two months. It was very clear that it was important to do it right the first time, and that’s where Virtual Flight Surgeons came in.”

Fortunately for Keel, a friend put him in touch with a cardiologist who suggested doing an ultrasound and inserting a pressure wire that would go through the artery and measure the blood flow on either side of the area that appeared to be blocked. It was a methodology that the FAA hadn’t used in the past, and Martin opened the door between the FAA and the cardiologist so he could present the results. The procedure showed there was no blockage, the FAA accepted it and Keel got his first-class medical back. “I would highly recommend VFS and Dr. Martin to be a liaison with the FAA,” Keel said. “It is easy to have the FAA kick back an appeal for a minor mistake, and VFS eliminated that type of problem.”