Gotcha! (Round 2)

by Dr. John Beasley, M.D.

A couple of issues ago, I wrote about some of the things that get pilots in trouble with the medical certification system. The dreaded “Gotchas.” I pointed out that really (really!) those folks in OK City are not out to “do a gotcha” to you, but there are things that can get you in trouble with certification. Here, in no particular order, are a few more to add to the four I listed last time.

Gotcha #5. Lying. I had this guy who had had serious heart problems and didn’t disclose that when I examined him and issued a certificate. (“I didn’t think it was important.” Yeah, right!). I found this out incidentally before the next examination and refused to do it. The FAA (and I) take a dim view of folks who lie on the form. Not only are there legal consequences (read the fine print), but the FAA can and in some cases has, revoked all certificates when an applicant falsifies information for the exam. Oh, and you might really be a hazard to yourself and others…more important than the legal stuff!

If you do lie, you are more likely to get caught than you used to be. I’m really not comfortable with many of the changes that have taken place since the implementation of the Electronic Health Record (EHR),  and the dissemination of medical information is one of them. There is a lot of stuff that’s in the EHR – some of which may be outdated or just plain wrong. Nonetheless, I can’t see anybody in my clinic without opening up the EHR. And, if I see things there, I don’t feel I can ignore them.

Gotcha # 6. Not reporting a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or substance-related legal issue to the right people. Had a DUI or other drug related legal problem? Just reporting to your AME does not meet requirements for the drug or alcohol reporting regulations. You must report any “administrative” action (arrest, judgment, required education) to the FAA Security Division within 60 days. If there was a single DUI, you need to report it and you should bring all police and court records with you, including the blood alcohol level, when you see your AME. If you refuse alcohol testing, it will be presumed that you were positive and the FAA will require a full substance abuse evaluation.

Been drinking? Don’t drive. Taxi fare is a lot cheaper. By the way, if you have ever (What, don’t you understand about ever?) had a DUI, it must be reported every time you apply thereafter. If you don’t, when your answer is cross-checked against the driver registry, you may get hit with an emergency revocation of ALL certificates – yeah, even your Ground School Instructor and Airframe and Powerplant Certificates.

Gotcha #7. Stuff that was done for (to?) you.

A woman came to me who wanted to start flying and discussed with me that she had been diagnosed as having ADD (Attention Deficient Disorder) as a high school student and still used a stimulant medication on rare occasions to study. I didn’t see a problem and issued her, and a few weeks later, got a nasti-gram from the feds revoking the certificate I had issued. I didn’t agree with this, but then mine is not the final decision. This is going to become a bigger issue as more and more school kids get put on these medications. If you (or your kid) is considering starting this stuff, be sure it is really, really needed first.

Gotcha #8. Medications that are not approved by FAA. Sometimes there is a medication that’s relatively new and perhaps safe as an existing, approved medication, but not yet approved by the FAA. This can get us in trouble. The AOPA website and can provide some unofficial lists. If you are starting something new, check with your AME to see if it is improved (or save money and check with Dr. Google using “drug-name FAA”). Often, you’ll find what you need there. Sometimes a medication that was previously approved falls off the list and this can cause problems as well.

So let’s keep medical certification simple for all of us. Avoid this second set of  “Gotchas.” Who knows – I may even come up with some more.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Effective October 1, 2012, all applicants for airmen medical certification are required to complete FAA Form 8500-8 online. The online application process called “MedXPress” is then transmitted to the FAA and is then available for the applicant’s AME to review at the time of the medical examination. After completing the application, the airman receives a “control number,” which is needed for the AME to download the application at his office. Interestingly, MedXPress is not yet available to FAA Air Traffic Control Specialists, who are likewise required to get an FAA medical examination on a periodic basis. For additional information, refer to

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