Pilots On Anti-Depressant Medications Gain AME Support

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Aeromedical certifying authorities -- such as the FAA's Office of Aviation Medicine -- should begin to study and license pilots on anti-depressant medication, the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) said in a position paper published last month. The proposal is "stunning," says Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) Dr. Brent Blue, who said he has tried for years to get medicated pilots licensed. "The appearance of this paper was an unexpected triumph of rational thought in pilot certification," he told AVweb yesterday. The paper proposes that aeromedical certifying authorities remove the current absolute prohibitions that bar pilots from flying while taking anti-depressants. The 10-page proposal, Blue said, would allow a test group of pilots to fly under the watchful eye of psychological specialists, AMEs and perhaps aeromedically trained psychiatrists. The results would be closely monitored, leading to a routine certification procedure. The test would determine whether a pilot on medication can fly as well as a pilot who is physically and mentally healthy, and unmedicated. So far, the FAA is moving slowly on the proposal, Blue said, but it's likely that the first pilots to be tested -- and approved -- would be those with third-class medicals. "The fact that the prestigious AsMA has produced a positive stance ... bodes well for a sooner rather than later change," Blue said. The policy recommendations appeared in the May 2004 edition of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, the official journal of the AsMA.