FAA Explains New DUI Policy for Pilots

December 1, 2009
Regulations

FAA aerospace medical certification division manager Dr. Warren Silberman explained the FAA’s new DUI (driving under the influence or while intoxicated) policy in the latest Federal Air Surgeon’s Medical Bulletin.

According to Silberman, pilots who get a DUI and had a blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.15 percent when charged or who refused to allow the police to take a sample will automatically have their case transferred to the FAA’s aerospace medical certification division. Under previous rules, pilots who were first-time DUI offenders would have their court record reviewed by aeromedical examiners, who had leeway to determine whether the applicant had a problem.

Pilots are still required to report to the FAA within 60 days any DUI-related actions.

 

FAA Issues New DUI/DWI Policy

According the Winter Edition of The Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin, the FAA has a new policy regarding its treatment of an airman who receives his or her first DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated). Up until now, an airman's first DUI/DWI offense was a "gimme". Although the aviation medical examiner ("AME") was supposed to obtain court documents relating to the offense and question the airman about his or her alcohol or drug use to determine if the airman has a substance abuse problem, the FAA did not require any further information or explanation from the airman and the DUI/DWI did not have any adverse impact on the airman's ability to obtain a medical certificate. However, that has changed.

Under the new policy, when an airman reports a DUI/DWI on his or her medical application, the airman will still have to provide the AME with copies of the court documents relating to the offense and the AME will question the airman about his or her alcohol or drug use to determine if the airman has a substance abuse problem. However, if the airman has a blood alcohol level greater than 0.15 or refused to let the police take a sample, the AME may not issue the medical certificate and will have to defer the medical application to Aeromedical Certification in Oklahoma City. When the Aeromedical folks receive the application, they will require that the airman obtain a substance abuse evaluation from a recognized counselor before they will consider issuing the airman a medical certificate.

At first blush, this new policy may appear to create more incentive for an airman not to disclose the DUI/DWI on the medical application. After all, you might wonder, "if I don't disclose the offense, how will the FAA know?" Well, when an airman signs the medical application, he or she gives the FAA permission to search the National Driver Registry. Each week, the FAA Security Division sends airmen-identifying features to the registry and, if they receive a "hit," the FAA checks the airman’s medical examination records to see if the airman reported the DUI/DWI as required. And keep in mind, the consequences for failing to disclose remain severe: suspension of airmen and medical certificates for failing to report within 60 days under FAR 61.15(e) and revocation of all airmen certificates for failure to disclose on the medical application.

Unfortunately, this policy change, coupled with the recent change to FAA Form 8500-8 which now requires disclosure of "arrests" in addition to the previously required "convictions and administrative actions," will certainly create new problems for an airman with a first time DUI/DWI.

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