NTSB Wants More Oversight Of Substance-Dependent Pilots

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The FAA needs to do more to ensure that pilots dependent on substances such as drugs and alcohol are properly evaluated by aviation medical examiners, the NTSB said on Monday. A number of aircraft accidents have occurred when the pilot's substance dependence was relevant to the cause, according to the Safety Board. The NTSB said the FAA should require pilots to provide copies of arrest reports and court records to their examiner prior to clinical evaluation. Those records, it added, should be kept on file in the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, where they can be accessed in regard to any application for a medical certificate. Also, airmen who have been clinically diagnosed with substance dependence, including dependence on alcohol, should be medically certified only under a special-issuance waiver, the NTSB said. The Safety Board cited several recent accidents in support of its recommendation. In one case, the pilot had reported a DUI conviction to the FAA, but the FAA did not obtain records of that offense. The Board obtained the arrest records and found the pilot had a blood alcohol level of 0.28 percent, a level indicating that the driver had a tolerance, which is evidence of a substance-dependence problem. If the FAA had considered the DUI arrest record as part of the medical certification application process, this pilot would not have been issued a medical certificate.