by Dr. Bill Blank, MD
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine June/July 2021
Recently I have had a couple of applicants with more than one DUI (Driving Under the Influence) violation. Had they handled things differently, they probably could have been re-certified sooner. That is what gave me the idea for this article. Excess alcohol consumption is a big problem in this country leading to serious problems for the alcoholic, his/her family, and major issues for the rest of society. The FAA is, of course, aware of this and has gradually refined its approach to the problem with some help from Congress.
You must report within 60 days to the FAA INTERNAL SECURITY and INVESTIGATION DIVISION, not the Civil Aviation Medical Division, a conviction, cancellation, suspension or revocation of your driver’s license for operating while intoxicated or impaired by drugs or alcohol. This can now be done online.
Beware, even if your charges are later negotiated down, or your license was suspended only for a few hours and then returned, you MUST report it.
When you sign the FAA 8500-8 medical application form, you authorize the FAA to search the National Driver Registry (NDR) for violations. If you fail to report a violation, they will probably find it and you will be in violation of the regulations.
Who needs to report? Anyone from a Student Pilot to an Airline Transport Pilot who has a valid, at least by date, medical certificate — 3rd, 2nd, or 1st class. If you are no longer flying and your medical certificate has expired, you do not need to report it. If you realize you should have reported it, report it yourself, even if it is beyond 60 days. That is better than having the FAA find it.
If you are flying under Basic Med, you don’t need to report it to the Security Division. Substance dependance for holders of Basic Med is handled via Federal Aviation Regulation Part 67 “substance dependance within the previous two (2) years.” In this case, a Special Issuance is required before a Basic Med can be obtained.
Now what? It’s time for your next medical. Question 18V on the 8500-8 medical application form asks about arrests, convictions, etc., while intoxicated. This is where you report it to the Medical Certification Division.
What are the options for your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)? He can pass you, himself, if there has been only one event in your whole life and the blood alcohol content (BAC) was less than 0.15. If the event the violation was less than 5 years ago, go online and find the “Drug and Alcohol Personal Statement,” complete it and bring it to your AME in case he wants it. If you have two (2) or more events, your AME must defer it to the FAA, unless he has a letter authorizing him to issue.
Three or more events will probably result in a substance dependance classification. They will want all of your records of convictions, blood alcohols, driving records, etc. Plan ahead on this. It can sometimes take months to gather everything, and the FAA won’t act until they have everything they want.
Sometimes the FAA will issue the medical with a warning letter. Other times you may get a Special Issuance with various requirements up to and including total abstinence and AA-type monitoring.
If, as you read this, you realize you need help, there is a pathway to re-certification via the HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study) program. This is a cooperative program between ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association) and the FAA to return pilots safely to the cockpit with close monitoring. Non-professional pilots can also take advantage of the program. Certain AMEs have had special training and are designated HIMS AMEs. Your first step would be to contact a HIMS AME to make an appointment with him/her and discuss the situation. There is no need to contact the FAA at this point. A good link to learn about the program is: airspacedoc.com/hims-programs.
Hopefully you will not need to deal with the subject of this article. But if you do, I hope this information is helpful.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Columnist William A. Blank is a physician in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and has been an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) since 1978, and a Senior AME since 1985. Dr. Blank is a retired Ophthalmologist, but still gives some of the ophthalmology lectures at AME renewal seminars. Flying-wise, Dr. Blank holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and has 5600 hours. He is a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) and has given over 1200 hours of aerobatic instruction. In addition, Dr. Blank was an airshow performer through the 2014 season and has held a Statement of Aerobatic Competency (SAC) since 1987.
NOTE: In the April/May 2021 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, the article entitled Hypertension and FAA Certification stated that “Normal blood pressure is generally considered to be under 120/80. Treatment from a medical point of view depends upon the risk factors. The article INCORRECTLY stated that your aviation medical examiner (AME) can certify you for any class, as long as your blood pressure does not exceed 155/90.” The correct blood pressure that should not be exceeded is 155/95.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations and FAA Aeronautical Information Manual for additional information and clarification.