Go see the doctor !

Going for the Class 1 Initial Medical with ECLG in Brussels

If I want to obtain higher licenses and ratings than my JAA PPL license, I have to obtain a Class 1 Medical certificate. Today I hold a class 2. In fact I hold three medical certificates (all from the same doctor): a JAA European Class 2, a DCA Malaysia Class 2 and a FAA US class 3. As I am closing in to the magical age of 40 years, better do this Class 1 thing now rather than later, I am thinking…

If you want to obtain a Class 1 JAA certificate in Belgium, you should go to a recognised aero-medical centre for the initial tests. Consecutive checks can be done with a recognised aero-medical doctor (AME). In Belgium there are three (see also on the website of ‘Het Bestuur der Luchtvaart’) centres where you can do this initial check: the government one (Expertisecentrum van Luchtvaartgeneeskunde – ECLG ), the one of the airforce and the one from Belgium’s leading flight training organisation (Sabena Flight Academy).

As I had chosen the ECLG for my JAA Class 2 medical license 6 years ago (see Validation), I made another appointment there for my initial Class 1. This is easily done via a form available on their website that can be emailed to the friendly and responsive secretariat of that organisation. Very soon after your application, you get an email reply with an appointment date and some instructions. I fixed an appointment roughly three weeks after my initial email. The email message is followed by a letter containing also the medical form that you need to fill out with all your medical details.

I had prepared this check as follows:

  • Loose weight and decrease Body Mass Index 🙂
  • Some sporting to get fit
  • Read up the medical forum at Piloten.be
  • Read the Belgian Law that governs these tests, including the more medico-technical parts. I googled some terms so I roughly understood what it was all about. With hindsight, that probably wasn’t all needed … but hey … a prepared pilot is a good pilot, no !?
  • I visited my dentist for a check-up

Koekelberg in spring

The day of my appointment, I arrived in time at the WTC III Tower (8th floor) at the Simon Bolivarlaan 3 in Brussels. The invitation letter serves as parking entrance below the WTC III tower. You can pay the whopping fee of 409.23 Euro with Bancontact at the reception. Albeit that I hold a Class 2 already, I did not get discount for this Class 1 initial… However I believe that they did not perform some tests again as they had my initial Class 2 file handy. In fact, it struck me that they kept records of my whole medical file, also the reports of my class 2 renewals I took in the meanwhile in Singapore … it was all there ! So for those who wonder if it makes sense to do Class 2 first and later Class 1: you don’t save money, but you do save some tests in function of goodwill and available time & motivation of the testing doctors. They even speak of ‘an upgrade’ amongst themselves, although there is officially no such thing as an ‘upgrade’. For instance, I did not have to redo the infamous test with the hot water into my ear to test my equilibrium senses … and I didn’t mind :-).

Waiting room of the ECLG

Allow me to describe the tests here as a reference for possible future ‘patients’. By all means I am not medically schooled … this is a layman’s report and is probably not complete, correct or representative, so don’t take it too serious.

First test was Eyesight:

  • Read the Ishihara booklet to test for color blindness
  • Sight of depth: put on classic red/green 3D glasses, look at an image: you need to see balls popping up
  • I was asked to undo my contact lenses (never had to show my spare set of classic glasses)
  • Was asked if I ever had surgery done on my eyes
  • Measurement of correction (far sighted / near sighted) with the same type of machine you find in Optical shops
  • Eyeball pressure measurement with a machine with a green LED that puffs some air in every eye … bizarre …
  • Peripheral eyesight measurement one eye at the time by looking straight into a parabolic dish and telling the doctor when you see a light dot entering your vision
  • Move to the classic optical chair
  • Test eyesight with correction: read lists of letters and number with every eye
  • Convergence test with a red line and a yellow light
  • The doctor moves a pen left, right, front back in front of you and you should follow it with your eyes without moving your head … silly
  • The doctor looks with an instrument that sends a stripe of light into your eyes
  • Then he uses another thing that he uses to look from afar into your eyes
  • I could don my contact lenses again
  • He said all was OK

Dressing room at teh ECLG doctor

Next visit was to the ‘general doctor’ :

  • Fill a potty with urine, and a colored strip is soaked into it
  • Undress
  • Body weight
  • ECG (heart) check with various sensors on your body … went very fast
  • Visit & talk to the doctor
  • Any sport, complaints, hospitalisation, medical history, … ?
  • Lungtest: twice breathing out hard into a machine that produced a funny graph on her computer … quite hard actually
  • Standing upright with arms in front of body and eyes closed for about a minute … not allowed to fall of course
  • Walk towards the end of the room and come back with eyes closed
  • Laying on the bed
  • Was I sober (no food during the last 12 hrs)?
  • Fill a couple of tubes with blood
  • Feeling and pushing the organs
  • Measure blood pressure
  • Listen to heart & lungs with stethoscope
  • Done & get dressed & eat something (coffee & cookies were served !)
  • She said it was OK

Next: Ears, Throat and Nose – this went very fast:

  • Look into both ears
  • Put a kind of small vibrator into each ear – donno what that did … it made noises
  • Hearing test: in a noisefree room (I could hear my own heart !) with 40-ties style headphones on to detect minuscule sounds and pushing a button. There was a lot of time between each sound which made me fantasise hearing sounds to the dismay of the tester …
  • Next I had to sit down on the hated equilibrium seat
  • Watch some lights move left and right, without moving head
  • Three electrodes on the head (probably to check if you open your eyes), close your eyes, bow head forward. The chair starts swinging (nothing freightening) and you have to tell to what direction it moves. It turned about seven times before it was over
  • As explained, I dreaded the test where they let hot water flow into your ear and where you had to count backward in steps of three from three hundred while that chair was turning, but this time the test was not performed (during my initial class 2 it was performed).
  • He said it was OK

This was the end of the sessions at the WTC III Tower. It lasted about an hour, and there were hardly any waiting times. Doctors and secretariat were very friendly. If needed, I’d go there again. There were actually quite a lot of people undergoing these tests that day … good business I’d say !

Kliniek Park Leopold

From the Secretariat I had been given two envelopes for the two afternoon tests I had to take in the Kliniek Park Leopold in Brussels, a 10 minute drive from the WTC III Tower. I was advised to eat something before the EEG test, which I did …

First stop was with the Radiologist (floor -1). You show your paperwork and they know you’re a (wannabe) pilot. There it took exactly one minute to make a Thorax X-ray image …

Dressing room at the Kliniek Leopold Park in Brussels

Next stop was at the Neurologist (6th floor) for the EEG (Electro Encephalogram). Again by handing the papers they know what to do. It lasted about 15 minutes:

  • You are to be seated in a chair that much resembles an electrical chair. You can only hope it isn’t.
  • The person puts two electrodes on your arms (with ample conducting gel in between)
  • Then you get kind of a red-and-black braided hat full of electrodes on your head and every electrode is supplied with ample gel again so you end up with a very funky hairstyle after the test
  • You have to close your eyes and the test is started
  • For about five minutes you have to open and close your eyes on command
  • Then you have to breathe in heavy and slowly with open and closed eyes on command
  • Then you have to pant with open and then with closed eyes
  • And to finalise the torture, they put a stroboscope light in front of you and you have to look into it, and later close your eyes. Three time at three different flash frequencies

The whole test is apparantly designed to provoke a Epilepsy seizure. And some people apparantly do get a seizure while otherwise they never had it. I did fine luckily.

Friendly people there … no bad words about that !

So, now I am waiting for the results … hopefully I will get my Class 1 medical soon !

By the way, sorry for the most boring pictures ever …


UPDATE: two weeks later I received the Class 1 license in my mail … I got it !

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