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Dealing with DUI

By Frederick E. Tilton; Federal Air Surgeon
Reprinted with permission from FAA Safety Briefing

I know we all agree that alcohol has no place in aviation. That’s why the Airman Medical Application Form 8500-8 includes a question about any arrest or conviction “involving driving while intoxicated by, impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug.” The FAA also requires airmen to report a DUI arrest or conviction to its Security and Investigations Division within 60 days of its occurrence.

Last year, in response to a 2007 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Safety recommendation, the FAA modified its policy for DUI reporting. The previous policy only required detailed documentation if an airman had more than one:

  • DUI,
  • alcohol related/drug arrest, or
  • conviction.

The revised policy requires an airman with a single DUI arrest or conviction to provide a complete copy of the arrest report and/or court records to his or her Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) so that the AME can determine whether there might be a substance abuse or dependence problem. If the records indicate a recorded blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or greater, or if the AME believes that the airman has a substance abuse or dependence problem, he or she must defer the application decision to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division (AMCD) in Oklahoma City.

NOTE: If an airman’s BAC is .20 or higher, the Office of Aerospace Medicine will require additional information because a BAC of .20 or greater implies alcohol tolerance which in-turn implies alcohol dependence.

What to Bring

Here are some of the items an airman with a DUI should bring to his or her next aviation medical examination. The AME (or the AMCD) also has discretion to require additional information or documentation if they deem it necessary.

  • All court records
  • Arrest records (including all statements by the arresting officer, field sobriety test results, etc.)
  • Results of any BAC determinations (breathalyzer or actual blood test)
  • Any medical evaluations done in connection with the incident
  • A written statement describing the event in the airman’s own words

We would all prefer that such policies were not necessary, and I sincerely hope you will never need to use the information in this column. However, I believe that this policy helps to make the national airspace safer, and that is the most important consideration. FLY SAFE!!