Drug/Alcohol Tests

It is estimated that 10% of the general population suffers from some form of drug or alcohol dependence. Pilots are no different and is cause for serious concern. The good news is that substance abuse is not career ending unless the pilot refuses to take responsibility for it. Pilots who take responsibility have a significantly higher success in returning to flying than those who don’t. Even if a pilot does not suffer from chronic dependency, offenses involving drug or alcohol can have a significant impact on a pilots career.

There are two types of offenses under FAA regulations. Part §91.17 prohibits crewmembers from operating or attempting to operate an aircraft within 8 hours of consuming alcohol, having a BAC of 0.04% or more, operating an aircraft while under the influence or when using drugs that affect the mental faculties in any way. Part §61.15 involves violation of Federal or State statutes involving the use, transport, or operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In cases involving offenses by a crewmember of a civil aircraft, §91.17 requires a pilot to submit to a test if the law enforcement officer is authorized by the state or local law to conduct the test AND the officer conducting the test is doing so to investigate whether the pilot has consumed alcohol within the 8 hour rule, is suspected of being under the influence, or has a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.04%.

In some states criminal attorneys will advise their clients to refuse to submit to a test as there are legal ways to maneuver to avoid criminal sanctions in those states. However, according to the FAA, failure to submit to a test is viewed very negatively and can result in suspension or revocation of your pilot certificate and/or medical certificate. The reason being, refusal to submit to a test is an indication that the pilot may be attempting to hide a substance abuse problem and is therefore, a threat to air safety. If your goal is to keep flying, it is better to submit to the test. Even if you are subsequently found to have a problem, it’s not too late to begin the road to recovery and return to the cockpit sooner rather than later.

The Code of Federal Regulations 14 CFR 61.15(e) requires all Part 61 certificate holders to send a written report to the FAA within 60 calendar days of any drug- and/or alcohol-related Motor Vehicle Actions (MVA). These reports are commonly referred to as “Notification Letters”.

Yes. Basic Med requires that you possess a valid drivers license in lieu of a medical certificate. If you lose your license, not only do you have to report it to the FAA, you also may no longer fly because your medical qualification has been suspended while your drivers license is suspended.

A motor vehicle action occurs when an offense results in either a conviction, cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle after November 29, 1990, for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

The report must contain specific information as spelled out in §61.15(e). This includes, the identity of the alleged violator such as, name, address, certificate number, and State of violation. Additionally, the pilot must make a factual statement describing the type of violation and whether it resulted in a conviction or other administrative action. Aviator Law can help draft the letter to ensure compliance with the reporting requirement.

Arrests by itself do not need to be reported by letter. However, all drug- and/or alcohol-related arrests must be reported on your next MEDEx Express (Form 8500-8) application for medical certificate.

In some states, the police will take your license from you at the time of arrest effectively suspending your driving privileges. If the suspension is made concurrent to your arrest or is later followed by a suspension, revocation, or cancellation of your drivers license, you must report by submitting a notification letter.

Each time you file an application for a medical certificate on form 8500-8, you give the FAA express consent to consult the National Driver Registry. The NDR provides the FAA a list of DUIs that occur across the country. The FAA will find out so it’s best for them to learn about it from you rather than on their own.

Generally yes but, it depends. You can continue to fly until you receive official notification from the FAA that either your medical or airman certificate has been suspended or revoked. Additionally, your employer may have its own rules regarding your flight status during the pendency of your case. It is best to consult Aviator Law to determine the best course of action.

A second notification letter is required if the airman is later convicted for driving under the influence or any other charge related to driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. This notification letter must be submitted within 60 days of the date of conviction.

You must send the notification letter regardless of your date of your next medical exam. The letter provides factual details not contained on the medical application. In addition, you must also report it on your medical application as well.

Absolutely YES. Report the MVA as soon as you become aware of the reporting requirement. A written report received after 60 days, but before FAA discovers the MVA on its own, is normally considered a mitigating factor when determining sanction.

The DUI does not normally have any immediate effect on your pilot certificates unless you fail to report. Depending on the circumstances, it may have an effect on your eligibility to possess a medical certificate. Basically, the FAA treats alcohol and drug offenses as a medical disease which raises a legitimate concern about your medical health. If so, they will issue you a letter of investigation. If after the investigation, they determine that you have an acute substance abuse problem, they will likely suspend your medical certificate for a period of time. If they feel that you have a chronic or serious substance abuse problem they may revoke your current medical certificate.

Depending on your condition, you may continue to fly if your prescribing physician does not tell you that you cannot fly. Even then, be careful because §61.53 prohibits a pilot from performing duties as a flight crewmember with a known medical deficiency. You are not required to report this in a notification letter but may be subject to disciplinary action if the use of prescribed medication affects your ability to safely operate an aircraft.

CAUTION: Even though the use of prescription drugs is not an reportable offense as described above, it must be reported in the Medical History portion during your next medical application.

Maybe. It depends on the conditions and medications you are taking. The FAA has a list of conditions that require medications that your AME uses to determine your eligibility for a medical certificate. The list is called CACI, or Conditions AME Can Issue. If the condition and associated medication is not on the list, the AME must defer the application to the FAA Aeromedical Branch in Oklahoma City.

Yes. Not only is it possible, it is highly likely. The overriding concern is whether or not you pose a risk to air safety. The FAA will refer you to a HIMS specialist for issuance of a Special Issuance Medical Certificate.

The only way you can obtain a medical certificate after a drug or alcohol conviction, is by enrolling into the HIMS program under the supervision of a HIMS approved AME.

HIMS stands for Human Intervention Motivation Study. HIMS is an occupational substance abuse treatment program, specific to pilots, that coordinates the identification, treatment, and return to work process for affected aviators. It is an industry-wide effort in which managers, pilots, healthcare professionals, and the FAA work together to preserve careers and enhance air safety.

It was specifically created to provide a means for pilots with substance or psychological problems to return to flying. Depending on the type of problem, the program will include a period of drug testing, monitoring, and counselling under the supervision of a HIMS qualified AME. The AME works in conjunction with the pilot, his/her peers, chief pilot, other medical professionals and then submits a recommendation to the FAA whether or not the pilot is eligible for the Special Issuance Medical Certificate.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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