The FAA today published its Final Rule on Disqualification For Airman And Airman Medical Certificate Holders Based on Alcohol Violations or Refusals To Submit to Drug and Alcohol Testing. The Final Rule: (1) changes the airman medical certification standards to disqualify an airman based on an alcohol test result of 0.04 or greater breath alcohol concentration (BAC) or a refusal to take a drug or alcohol test required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or a DOT agency; (2) standardizes the time period for reporting refusals and certain test results to the FAA (2 days), and requires employers to report pre-employment and return-to-duty test refusals; (3) amends the airman medical certification requirements to allow suspension or revocation of airman medical certificates for pre-employment and return-to-duty test refusals; and (4) updates the regulations to recognize current breath alcohol testing technology.
According to the FAA, the Final Rule “updates the existing regulations regarding airman certification of individuals who have violated the drug and alcohol testing regulations or who have otherwise demonstrated a substance abuse history through violation of State or local laws involving driving while intoxicated/driving under the influence” and it represents “a current example of the FAA’s continuing efforts to ensure that only drug- and alcohol-free individuals perform safety- sensitive duties.”
This Final Rule is consistent with the FAA’s current policy and enforcement relating to drug and alcohol abuse and regulatory violations. However, it doesn’t address the aftermath of such violations (besides suspension or enforcement). The FAA does state that “[t]hese amendments are necessary to ensure that persons who engage in substance abuse do not operate aircraft or perform contract air traffic control duties until it is determined that these individuals can safely exercise the privileges of their certificates.” However, this seems a bit disengenuous to me, given the onerous, and often times unreasonable, burdens imposed upon a certificate holder to prove that he or she can safely exercise the privileges of his or her certificate following such a violation.
I don’t disagree with the FAA’s policy: Certificate holders who have had their certificates suspended or revoked should have to prove that they can safely exercise the privileges before they are allowed to do so. But the policy should be enforced and implemented reasonably. Unfortunately, this is currently not always the case.
The amendments contained in the Final Rule become effective July 21, 2006. If you would like further information regarding the Final Rule you may contact: For technical information, Sherry M. de Vries, Aeromedical Standards and Substance Abuse Branch, Medical Specialties Division, AAM-210, Office of Aerospace Medicine, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-8693. For legal information, Michael Chase, Office of the Chief Counsel, AGC-200, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-8442.