Washington state resident and commercial pilot Paul Roessler was sentenced to four months home confinement on November 14 in U.S. District Court in Spokane, Wash., for being under the influence of alcohol while flying a Piper Seneca for a Seattle-based cargo operator. He was also sentenced to 240 hours of community service, two years probation, ordered to attend substance-abuse evaluation and counseling and pay a $1,500 fine.
The FAA has proposed a $205,250 civil penalty against Circor Aerospace, Inc., a Sylmar, Calif.-based aircraft repair station, for allegedly violating drug and alcohol testing regulations. The agency alleges that between September 2010 and December 2011, Circor failed to conduct required pre-employment drug tests and did not wait until test results were verified as negative before hiring 29 people to perform safety-sensitive aircraft maintenance work.
The news that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt was arrested for driving while intoxicated on Saturday (December 3) raises some interesting questions.
The Department of Transportation has issued a final rule that provides a start date for mandatory direct-observation drug testing.
“Direct observation” of aviation employees during drug and alcohol tests applies only to individuals who are returning to duty after a previous positive test, or if there is reasonable suspicion. The tests apply to only Part 121 and 135 operations, although some Part 91 operators follow the regulations, according to Dr. Quay Snyder, president and CEO of Virtual Flight Surgeons, Aurora, Colo.
The FAA (Booth No. 2039, 2606) now requires “direct observation” during drug and alcohol tests. Effective November 1, observers must ask an employee to “raise his or her shirt, blouse or dress/skirt, as appropriate, above the waist; and lower clothing and underpants to show you, by turning around, that they do not have a prosthetic device.” An employee’s failure to cooperate constitutes refusal to take the test.
The FAA has revised drug and alcohol testing procedures, specifically requiring “direct observation” in all return-to-duty and follow-up drug tests.
The FAA determined that the minimum percentage rate for substance abuse testing this year will remain at 25 percent of covered aviation employees for random drug testing and 10 percent for random alcohol testing. Data received in the last two years indicates that the positive rate for drug testing is less than 1 percent and the positive rate for alcohol testing has been less than 0.5 percent.
In February 2002 the FAA proposed to make it clear that each person who performs a safety-sensitive function directly or by contract for an employer (“including by subcontract at any tier”) is subject to drug and alcohol testing.
In response to “a number of accidents” in which the pilots had omitted or lied about substance/alcohol dependency during medical evaluations, the NTSB is recommending three policy changes to the FAA: the agency should require pilots to submit full arrest and court records to medical examiners, including details such as blood alcohol and behavior at the time of the offense; ensure that complete medical records from the Aerospace Medical Certif
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