March 14, 2017

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FAA Releases BasicMed Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist

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At the bottom of the medical application, there’s a release that says, “I hereby authorize the national driver registry to the designated state department of motor vehicles to furnish to FAA information pertaining to my driving record. This consent does not subdue authorization for a single access to the information contained in the NDR, to verify information provided in this application. Upon my request, the FAA shall make the information received from NDR, if any available, for my review and written comment.” (23USC4o).

For every medical application submitted, there is a team of investigators at the FAA that will verify that the information that you’ve reported is true.

As difficult as it is for a pilot to comply with the medical requirements after reporting a DUI, the penalty for not reporting a DUI is typically an emergency revocation, not just for your medical certificate, but for all your airline certificates as well, up to and including your ATP and your type ratings. It’s a very harsh penalty for withholding information from the FAA.

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What we see often is a pilot will come to us who has relied on his DUI attorney to give him advice as to what should be reported to the FAA. While that advice may be accurate for a non-pilot, the FAA has different reporting requirements for professional pilots. It’s not widely known by DUI attorneys that a pilot has to report an arrest even when they’re not convicted.

There are many talented DUI attorneys who can get their pilot clients out of a DUI and reduce the violation to, say, reckless driving, which would not require a reporting requirement of any sort because reckless driving is a traffic-related conviction. You don’t have to report the arrest then you’re not convicted of an alcohol-related event.

I strongly encourage pilots to have an aviation attorney consult with their DUI attorney because this is a very narrow niche in the law. It’s easy to get incorrect information from an attorney who is not specifically aware of the FAA requirements for its pilots which would have avoidable long-term negative consequences for the pilot.

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Question 18W asks you to report convictions for non-traffic misdemeanors and felonies, those are convictions though, not arrests. Typically, what the FAA is looking for is a personality disorder that manifests itself by sober acts.

The Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) will query the pilot and ask what the nature of the conviction was. Typically, they’ll ask for supporting documentation such as court disposition papers to find out exactly what the nature of the charge was.

The FAA interprets the regulation broadly and applies it to any misdemeanor or felony that’s non-traffic related.

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If you have a reporting requirement under 61.15, you’ll get a letter acknowledging your report. It’s very important to realize that you have an additional responsibility: if you first reported your driver’s license suspension or a DUI arrest and then you’re subsequently convicted of a DUI, you have to report both the suspension and the conviction. This will inform the FAA that the suspension and DUI conviction arrived out of the same arrest. Then it still only counts as one “motor vehicle action.”

The FAA is serious about enforcing those reporting requirements. FAA 61.15 goes on to say that if you have 2 motor vehicle actions within a 3-year period, then they can take action against your pilot’s license. The FAA can go for revocation or suspension of your pilot’s license. That’s significant in that, if you’ve got one DUI, you need to avoid getting another one within 3 years.

After the second DUI, there is no report administrative process or the 61.15 report. On the medical side, once you report the DUI on question 18V, the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) has a decision process that he’ll go through.

If this is the pilot’s first DUI and his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.15, he or she may be able to issue their medical certificate at the time they apply for the certificate. If their BAC is 0.15 or above, the pilot will likely have to defer their medical certificate. At that point, some time down the road, the pilot will get a letter from the FAA and they’re going to ask the pilot for the police report and the court disposition papers.

Once they’ve reviewed those, they may send a second letter asking for a statement about the pilot’s alcohol use past, present and future, and at the time of the event, a 10-year driving history from the pilot’s state of record.

If BAC is above 0.20, they could ask for a Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS). This information is compiled and analyzed by a HIMS trained AME who would make a request for a medical certificate. The FAA will look at all the information that has been presented to them as it attempts to determine if a pilot is alcohol dependent or not.

It’s important to consider FAR 67107 for first class medical, 67207 for second class, 67307 for third class – all 3 regulations are identical, but in that regulation you can find the FAA definition of substance dependence including alcohol. Unlike the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) criteria which is the guidance that helps other medical professionals make diagnoses of dependence issues. In the DSM-5, there are currently 11 criteria, 2 of which have to be present within a 12-month period for a diagnosis to be made. The FAA takes those 11 criteria and loosely condenses them into 4 and says, “If you’ve ever had one of these 4 criteria in your life ever, you are dependant.”

One of those 4 criteria is “increased tolerance.” That’s why the FAA is so interested in a pilot’s BAC at the time of arrest. In the FAA’s opinion, if your BAC is 0.15 or above, it begins to suspect you might be alcohol dependant. If it’s 0.20 or above, the FAA is practically certain. Once the FAA has made its analysis, if it determines that you are alcohol dependant, then it’s looking for 28 days of in-patient treatment in a place like Betty Ford, for example, followed by 90 AA meetings within 90 days and then they’ll ask the pilot to abstain from alcohol and be monitored for a period of at least 2 years.

In some cases, the monitoring could be for the duration of the pilot’s career. The monitoring consists of 14 random ETG tests, it’s a urine analysis and in some cases, even more sensitive PETEH test to ensure the pilot is abstaining from alcohol. In addition to that, there are often requirements for quarterly visits to your AME and/or annual evaluations from a HIMS trained psychiatrist. To the best of your ability, a pilot wants to avoid demonstrating to the FAA that he or she is alcohol dependant.

In sum, if you have a DUI of 0.08 or 0.09, you’re well below the FAA suspicion of increased tolerance. If it’s your one and only DUI, it’s likely your medical certificate can be issued without much further action. However, if it’s your second or third DUI or you have another history of alcohol related events, for example, a minor in possession or public intoxication, the FAA begins to look at the bigger picture that there may be a dependency issue that isn’t necessarily reflected just by increased tolerance.

Military Pilots

July 12, 2017

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Do the FAA rules apply to air force and navy pilots?

They do not. Military pilots are not required to have an FAA pilot license

Do you handle cases involving air force and navy pilots?

We do. We often help military pilots with their transition to a civilian flying career. For example, they may have an issue in their past or a medical issue that we can help them report correctly to the FAA, which helps them make a smooth transition to an airline career.

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How often a pilot’s medical certification needs to be renewed depends on the class of medical certificate that the pilot holds. Medical certificates are issued as first class, second class or third class – the first class being the highest level. For instance, all airline pilots who fly under part 121 of the aviation regulations are required to hold a first class medical certificate. There are some requirements for first officers, in addition to captains, to hold a first class medical certificates as well.

A second class medical certificate is required for pilots operating with a commercial pilot’s license rather than Airline Transport Pilot certificate – ATP. There is also a third class medical certificate and if you’re a younger pilot, the duration of those certificates can be years.

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We do not handle the DUI defense or the criminal aspect. We do, however, work closely with the DUI attorney to get the best results we can for the pilot in order to minimize the reporting requirements. Very often, we’re successful in mitigating the pilot’s 61.15 reporting requirement.

Learn more about the DUI reporting requirements for pilots.

As an example, in one case we were involved in, the defense attorney had a few options regarding settling the DUI matter. We had a conference call together along with the pilot and were able to make sure the criminal attorney’s defense would allow the pilot to avoid any 61.15 reporting requirements.

It’s important to note that we’re still required to report the DUI on the medical application. However, the requirement to report on your medical certificate only comes at the time you need to renew it. In some cases, it could be years before renewal and for a professional pilot, it could be up to 1 year.

There’s definitely an advantage in trying to alleviate the requirement to report under 61.15, but it’s always been our advice and our opinion that the sooner an experienced aviation attorney gets involved in a DUI matter, the better, so that we can have some input on how the criminal charges are handled in the pilot’s best interests.

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If a pilot gets a DUI, there are 2 fundamental reporting requirements. The first is found at FAR 61.15, which requires a pilot to report a “motor vehicle action.”

FAR 61.15

A motor vehicle action is defined as “a cancellation, suspension or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired or while under the influence of an alcohol or drugs.”

When a pilot is initially arrested for DUI, unless there’s an automatic suspension of their driver’s license, there is no reporting requirement at that time. The 61.15 reporting requirement comes with a 60-day deadline from the time of the motor vehicle action. The arrest itself doesn’t trigger the reporting requirement. Instead it’s the driver’s license suspension or conviction for DUI that triggers the reporting requirement.

In many cases, there is no reporting requirement at all under Section 61.15 if the pilot’s driver’s license has not been suspended or if the charges are later dropped to something that is not related to being under the influence, for example, reckless driving.

FAA Form 8500

The next substantial reporting requirement is the FAA Form 8500, which is a medical application.

The medical application requires pilots to report both an arrest and/or conviction for

  • a history of any arrests and/or conviction involving driving while being intoxicated by, while impaired by or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug, and
  • a history of any arrests and/or convictions and/or administrative actions involving an offence which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation or revocation of driving privileges or which resulted in attendance in an educational or rehabilitation program

If you get a good criminal defense lawyer and they manage to keep you from getting your driver’s license suspended and there is no conviction for a DUI, but instead, in our example, a conviction only got reckless driving, then you don’t have to make a 61.15 report.

However, you still have to report the arrest on the medical application and there are very few cases where a pilot can say he was not arrested for a DUI.

Certainly, a pilot who is arrested for DUI needs to talk with an experienced aviation attorney about his or her reporting requirements.

If the pilot fails to report within the 60 days then comes to you not knowing what to do, what would you do for that pilot?

We would very likely send in a 61.15 report that was late. It’s always better for the FAA to get negative information from the pilot rather than a third party. That tends to mitigate the sanction that the pilot may otherwise receive.

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The FAA on April 24 released the official BasicMed Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist that pilots who wish to fly under BasicMed need to fill out and have completed by the state-licensed physician performing the medical examination. The agency also published a link to AOPA’s Medical Self-Assessment: A Pilot’s Guide to Flying Healthy online aeromedical course that satisfies the requirement for pilots to complete a medical education course prior to operating under BasicMed.

Although qualified pilots cannot fly under BasicMed until May 1, they can go ahead and make a doctor’s appointment, have the checklist filled out by the physician, and complete the online medical course. Pilots will need to retain the completed exam checklist with their logbook, along with the certificate of completion provided after the pilot successfully completes the online course. Once these requirements are met, pilots just have to wait until May 1 to exercise the privileges of BasicMed.

Read more here.

FAA DUI/DWI and Substance Abuse Medical Certificate Analysis and Defense

Inhofe Introduces Fairness for Pilots Act

April 4, 2017

Follow Us:U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus; and certified flight instructor with more than 11,000 flight hours, today introduced S. 755, the Fairness for Pilots Act, which broadens protections for general aviation pilots provided by Inhofe’s Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which […]

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