Aeromedical Certification after alcohol or drug infractions *****8500-8 Section 18.v.

FAA Medical Exam

FAA Medical Exam

Aviators are a special breed, often close to adventure and active socially. When they are not flying, they may be subject to indiscretion and bad choices. A few may be involved in an incident involving alcohol or drug abuse that becomes a police matter.These are very serious situations both for the individual’s health and well-being, family, and aviation certification. The FAA medical application Form 8500 screens for these two issues in item 18 V

if there have been any administrative proceedings, arrests or convictions.

Many times the infraction involves driving a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.  While drug offenses are far less common, they clearly pose a very significant issue for medical certification. Pilots that use narcotics clearly cross a boundary of good judgment. A history of substance dependence is disqualifying and requires review by the Federal Air Surgeon.

The FAA routinely reviews every Medxpress application for alcohol offenses in every state department of motor vehicle databases. This is also true for all criminal arrest and convictions for drug related offenses.  Failure of the aviator to disclose these issues on the era medical certification examination also constitutes grounds for administrative and criminal proceedings for falsifying the application.

The FAA says that a single arrest or conviction for driving while intoxicated will not be grounds for denial.  However it will trigger the aviation medical examiner (AME) to defer if adequate documentation is not provided to the AME within 14 days of the examination.  Necessary documentation includes a number of criteria that must be met to reach the threshold for issuance by the AME.Often the next step will be a review by the Aeromedical Certification Division in Oklahoma City. The pilot will receive a letter from them within a couple of weeks asking for documentation as to the offense:

  • the legal proceedings such as court records and arrest reports
  • a detailed personal statement as to the history of alcohol use and any legal matters related to it
  • a complete copy of the driving record for the last 10 years in any state where the individual has held a motor vehicle license
  • a substance abuse evaluation by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or addiction specialist

The FAA has a protocol in assessing the severity of alcohol related motor vehicle offenses. The number of offenses is a crucial factor in the review.  Having more than one is an indicator of a pattern of abuse and disregard for the law.

The FAA has a worse view of individuals that refuse to cooperate with authorities to obtain a blood alcohol level. So simply refusing to take the test creates assumptions that are worse for gaining certification.

Another key issue is a blood alcohol level at the time of the arrest. Usually a driver suspected of driving while impaired will be given a field sobriety test or breathalyzer.  The next step is a blood specimen which is the gold standard.  In most states the threshold for impairment is 0.08 mg/dL of alcohol.

The FAA looks at a blood alcohol level greater than 0.16 mg/dL as indicating a more severe alcohol problem. The FAA views this threshold of double the legal limit more closely for three reasons.

  • First, it indicates that the aviator was operating a motor vehicle with enough alcohol to show a significant impairment in judgment.
  • Second, that driver probably had some degree of chronic alcoholism such that their level of comfort driving was a practiced behavior.
  • Third, this would indicate that the arrest was somewhat random and there were other times that the individual thought they could drive while impaired.

So the blood-alcohol threshold of 0.16 mg/dL will open the FAA investigation to a more thorough review of the potential for chronic alcohol abuse. The in-depth review of legal and medical records and a new psychological profile will be necessary for the recertification.

When I review the medical application with a new DWI offense, I try to counsel the aviator that they need to be cooperative and proactive. They will need to provide the necessary documentation and immediately begin to put together that package of reports and legal forms.

As with other medical issues, the FAA needs to do a thorough review before recertification. However as I said before, a high blood alcohol level indicates a more chronic pattern of abuse or that there is a disregard for the safety of others.

The FAA can also mandate that a pilot go to a recognized expert in the field that they will designate. These examinations are quite comprehensive and go beyond the issue of alcohol use. They are truly global psychological evaluations that encompass underlying motivation, personality, and cognitive function.

Commercial airline pilots can ask their employers and unions to access dedicated counseling and assistance programs. Aviators with alcohol related issues also have programs in the FAA has its own HIMS program.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – Pilot – FAA Medical Exam

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Pilots are concerned about a new medical standard for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) by the Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The concern is that pilots with a serious weight problem will be adversely affected in their recertification. I would like to present my perspective as a senior AME. My thoughts are my own and not necessarily shared by the powers that be.

Obstructive sleep apnea may cause functional impairment for safe aircraft operations. OSA literally means that someone stops breathing during sleep or effectively loses the ability to oxygenate the blood stream. This is because the upper airway is partially or completely blocked during sleep. Therefore the chest muscles and diaphragm must work much harder to open the airway and maintain respiration.

Sometimes a spouse or significant other will notice that during sleep an individual has difficulty maintaining normal respiration or, in fact, there are long pauses between breaths. Patient will come to the office with this clear witnessed account of sleep apnea and we request that a sleep study be done.  This involves going to a sleep lab and spending the night while being monitored.

However doctors also should be looking for symptoms of daytime sleepiness, excessive fatigue, non-restorative sleep, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, snoring, and inability to stay awake during common activities during the day.

Overwhelmingly the patients at risk for this are not aware of the condition. Therefore, prospective screening is the best way to diagnose and manage patients with OSA.  There are estimated to be more than 12 million people in the United States at this time with sleep apnea. More than half of those individuals are overweight. It tends to occur in middle-age man and older woman.  The risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include obesity, thick or large next, and smokers.

The FAA’s concerned that OSHA will result in impaired pilot performance. The FAA has published the Guidelines indicating that mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea can show performance degradation equivalent to 0.06 to  0.08% blood alcohol levels which is the measure of legal intoxication in most states.  There’s also the increasing risk of hypertension and atherosclerosis with the resulting increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.  In fact 30 to 50% of patients with heart disease and 60% of patients suffering strokes are found to have obstructive sleep apnea.

The FAA medical guidelines indicate that OSA is present in almost all obese individuals with a body mass index over 40 and the next circumference greater than 17 inches.  Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is a disqualifying condition for airmen and air traffic control specialists.

The next steps in the process will be for the pilot to have a BMI and neck circumference measured during the medical examination. Those airman with high BMI above 40 and neck circumference greater than 17 will be asked to undergo specialized evaluation by a sleep disorder specialist.

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Duration of FAA Pilot medical certificates

Many pilots ask if we could recap the duration for their medical certificates. and the frequency for the EKG for the first class airmen.

  1. First Class Medical Certificate: A first class medical certificate is valid for the remainder of the month of issue; plus

o    6 calendar months for operations requiring a first class medical certificate if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or

o    12-calendar months for operations requiring a first-class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination, or

o    12 calendar months for operations requiring a second class medical certificate, or

o    24 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or

o    60 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination. *

EKG is first done on the first medical exam after the airman’s 35th birthday.

The next EKG is done on the first medical exam after the airman’s 40th birthday.

After that one EKG is done every 12 months.

Please note that having the EKG in proper sequence with the medical is vital to maintaining the first class certificate.

After 12 months, an airman who does not have a current EKG will lose the first class certificate as it reverts to a Second class automatically.

    2. Second Class Medical Certificate: A second class medical certificate is valid for the remainder of the month of issue; plus

o    12 calendar months for operations requiring a second class medical certificate, or

o    24 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate, if the airman is age 40 or over on or before the date of the examination, or

o    60 calendar months for operations requiring a third class medical certificate if the airman has not reached age 40 on or before the date of examination. *

     3. Third Class Medical Certificate: A third-class medical certificate is valid for the remainder of the month of issue; plus

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Pilot Medical Certification Questions and Answers

Q

 

uestions & Answers:

 

medical

http://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/faq/

  1. What is a medical certificate?
  2. How do I obtain a medical certificate?
  3. Who must hold a medical certificate?
  4. What class of medical certificate must I hold and how long is it valid?
  5. What medical standards must I meet in order to qualify for a medical certificate?
  6. What medical conditions does the FAA consider disqualifying?
  7. What are the minimum and maximum ages for obtaining a medical certificate?
  8. Can I get my student pilot certificate at the same time I take my initial flight physical?
  9. What does it cost to get a medical certificate?
  10. Am I prohibited from exercising the privileges of my pilot certificate during medical deficiency?
  11. I have some medical problems and would like to learn whether I can be issued airman medical certification. Where can I get further information?
  12. Is a pilot required to report to the FAA that he or she has undergone LASIK or other laser eye surgery to correct vision?
  13. Can I appeal if my application for medical certification is denied?
  14. How does the appeal process work?
  15. How can I contact the FAA about my medical certificate?
  16. What should I do if I hold a foreign medical certificate or endorsement and I want to exercise pilot privileges in the United States?
  17. I lost my medical certificate; how can I obtain a copy?

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