FAA’s DWI/DUI Evaluation Procedures Are Something Every Pilot Should Be Aware Of by Bo Kalabus

Although the regulations have not changed, the FAA has substantially changed its procedures for evaluation of pilots with alcohol issues over the course of the last three years. As you can imagine, the FAA taking a much harder look at alcohol related contacts and pilots should be aware of the various pitfalls that could stem from a DWI/DUI arrest or conviction.

In the case of DWI/DUI the FAA has begun scrutinizing each alcohol related event that occurs in a pilot’s life. There is no longer a free pass for a first or second event. First, a brief review what has been the law since 1990 regarding the FAA reporting requirements:

If a pilot is convicted of operating a motor vehicle (which includes a boat) while i intoxicated the pilot must report the incident to the FAA Security and Investigations Division (AMC-700) within 60 days. The 60 day reporting clock can also be triggered prior to a final conviction if administrative action is taken against the pilot stemming from the same incident, i.e. a driver’s license suspension. Required disclosure on the 8500 form at the pilot’s medical examiner, even within the 60-day window, does not meet the reporting requirement.

What has changed is how the FAA handles what is reported. In all cases the FAA will require full documentation of the incident. This includes not only court and police records, but a letter of explanation from the pilot. The FAA then digests the information to see if there is a pattern of alcohol or substance abuse, especially if this is not the first incident for the pilot.

BAC 1.5 or Above

If the pilot’s blood alcohol level (BAC) is a .15 or above, it will trigger the FAA to request a formal substance abuse evaluation. The evaluation required by the FAA is much more detailed than those required by courts or probation offices. The pilot must obtain the substance abuse evaluation on his or her own–typically through a HIMS (Human Intervention and Motivation Study) AME. The HIMS AME will review the data and make his or her own evaluation. At this point, there is a good chance the pilot’s certificate will remain valid, unless the evaluation raises further substance abuse concerns.

BAC .20 or Above

If the pilot’s BAC is .20 or above (regardless of whether it is a first offense or not), the FAA will most likely conclude the pilot has a substance abuse problem and may take action against the pilot’s certificate to suspend flying privileges. In this type of case, following the substance abuse evaluation, which at this point would most likely include psychiatric evaluation, the pilot will have to apply for a special issuance or authorization and participate in the HIMS process to begin flying again.

Refusal of Breath Test

If the pilot refuses a breath test at a vehicle stop, this will raise a red flag for FAA as it will assume the pilot has a substance abuse problem. As you can imagine, this will trigger the substance abuse evaluation for the pilot and participation in the HIMS process.

What is the HIMS Process?

HIMS is a program that began in 1973 as a cooperative effort between the FAA and the Air Line Pilots Association for airline pilots that were recovering from substance abuse addictions. The HIMS program is a process that is both lengthy and time consuming. The FAA requires at least 28 days of residential drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation–outpatient programs are generally not acceptable regardless of how intensive the program is. Once the 28 day residential program is complete, the pilot must complete 90 sessions with AA (or equivalent) in the first 90 days after discharge. After the 90 day period sessions, may drop to roughly three times a week.

Following the discharge from the residential facility, the pilot is required to see a HIMS AME and that AME will follow the pilot with periodic evaluations which will include random drug testing. The key to the HIMS process is staying sober–period. A pilot must demonstrate good recovery to be considered for a special issuance to begin flying again. As you can imagine, the road is hard and long to get a special issuance and not always successful.

 

Speak Your Mind

*

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.