The news that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt was arrested for driving while intoxicated on Saturday (December 3) raises some interesting questions.
The FAA’s plan to allow pilots to continue flying while taking antidepressant medication has finally generated a decent amount of public comment. As of early last month, there was only one comment from an individual in the rules docket, along with 10 other pieces of information such as the rule change itself and supporting materials.
The FAA on April 2 announ-ced a new policy that will allow pilots taking medication for mild to moderate depression to obtain a special issuance medical certificate. Special issuances are needed for medical conditions that are not allowable for normal first-, second- and third-class medical certification of pilots.
In a new policy statement released on Friday, the FAA said that individuals being treated for “mild to moderate” depression with one of four antidepressant medications–specifically, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and their generic equivalents–can be considered for special issuance of a pilot medical certificate.
“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 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
The Flight Safety Foundation Corporate Aviation Committee held a workshop in October about instituting a pilot-friendly drug- and alcohol-abatement program in corporate flight departments. According to Dr.
The minimum percentage rate for substance-abuse testing for next year will remain at 25 percent of covered aviation employees for random drug testing and 10 percent for random alcohol testing. The rates will remain unchanged because historical data indicates that the positive rate for drug tests over the last several years has been less than 1 percent.
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