FAA Tightens Rules On Pilot DUI

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The FAA has tightened up its treatment of pilots convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses. In the latest issue (PDF) of the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin, AMEs are advised that first-time DUI and DWI offenders don't necessarily escape the agency's scrutiny as they have in the past. As noted by Aero Legal ServicesUnder the new rules, anyone whose blood-alcohol content was measured at higher than .15 percent or who refused to provide a sample will automatically have their case referred by the AME to FAA headquarters. The FAA medics will then insist that the pilot applicant undergo a substance abuse assessment. Previously, on first offenses, AMEs had to review court records and make the call on whether the applicant had a problem. It's been suggested the tougher rules might tempt offenders to lie about it on their medical but that will likely make things worse.

In the fine print on the medical form is permission granted to the FAA to cross check the pilot applicant with the National Driver Registry, which compiles driving records. If the FAA gets a hit on the registry and then discovers the pilot didn't disclose the offense on the medical form, justice is swift and harsh. The FAA hates liars so the penalty for omitting the alcohol-related event (or anything else, including arrests that don't lead to conviction) is immediate revocation. There's also a requirement to report these offenses within 60 days of occurrence, regardless of the time remaining on a pilot's medical certification and failure to do so results in an immediate suspension.