The NTSB today issued Safety Recommendations A-07-41 through A-07-43 regarding information it believes should be provided to the FAA or used by the FAA in connection with evaluating whether an airman has a substance dependence. The recommendations are in response to a number of aircraft accident investigations in which the Board discovered that the FAA had information to indicate, and was or should have been aware, that the airman had a history of substance dependence and the airman’s substance dependence was relevant to the cause of the accident.
Recommendation A-07-41 advises the FAA to “[e]nsure that any airman undergoing aeromedical evaluation following a traffic conviction or administrative action that is required to be reported in the FAA Application for Airman Medical Certificate, form 8500-8, item 18v, is required to provide a complete copy of the relevant arrest report and/or court records, and those records are placed in the airman’s FAA medical file prior to clinical evaluation for certification.” According to the Board, “a pilot convicted of even a single traffic offense involving alcohol or drugs is reasonably likely to have driven impaired on a large number of occasions and may be substance dependent.” As a result, it feels that knowing the circumstances of such an offense would assist the FAA in evaluating substance dependence and deciding about an airman’s continued medical certification.
Recommedation A-07-42 suggests that the FAA “[p]rovide a copy of an airman’s complete medical record (including relevant arrest and court records) on file in the Aerospace Medical Certification Division to any individual performing a clinical evaluation of that airman related to the airman’s application for a medical certificate for the purpose of establishing, ruling out, or monitoring a history or diagnosis of substance dependence (including dependence on alcohol), as defined in 14 Code of Federal Regulations 67.107(a)(4)(ii), 67.207(a)(4)(ii), and 67.307(a)(4)(ii), prior to the completion of such an evaluation.” The Board feels that since the third-party evaluators are not routinely provided a copy of an airman’s complete FAA medical record they don’t receive the whole history and, thus, “airmen with potentially disqualifying medical conditions may present those conditions in the most favorable light and may not provide evaluators with critical objective information regarding their substance use or abuse.”
Recommendation A-07-43 asks the FAA to “[r]equire that all airmen clinically diagnosed with substance dependence (including dependence on alcohol), as defined in 14 Code of Federal Regulations 67.107(a)(4)(ii), 67.207(a)(4)(ii), and 67.307(a)(4)(ii), who are medically certified by the FAA subsequent to such diagnosis, are followed under guidelines for special issuance of medical certificates for the period that they hold uch certificates.” Because the Board considers substance dependence a lifelong disorder, it believes that airmen with such a history should be continuously re-evaluated to ensure that their flying does not create unacceptable risk.