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Medical Certificate Issues Ends Flying Dream

Medical Certificate Issues
Medical Certificate issues ended a aspiring pilot’s dream of flying.

I took my son to his first air show when he was just 4 years old, about 12 years ago. He absolutely loved it. He sat up attentively, pointing at the sky and looking back at me to make sure I didn’t miss any of the colorful planes looping through their smoke trails. I had secured the perfect spot for our blanket on the lawn, right at the front of the Oshkosh flight line. From that glorious day, Joey was bitten and smitten by the aviation bug. I was sure he would become a private pilot someday, just like me.

Just a month after his 16th birthday, we made a doctor’s appointment with an aviation medical examiner, or AME for short. Our goal was to get Joe his third-class medical certificate so he could begin flying lessons. He had done well obtaining his driver’s license, passing on his first attempt, and doing it driving a six-speed manual transmission, no less! He is a competent and proficient driver. Before his medical exam, we completed all the required forms together on the MedXPress website. The exam with the AME went smoothly, or at least that is what we thought. The physician had access to Joe’s complete medical record, including medication history and diagnosis, including depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She performed the routine exam and never mentioned that he might have a problem getting his medical certificate. She just said, “You will hear from the FAA in about three weeks or so,” and that was it. Joe and I were so excited about getting him started with flight training. We had an instructor all lined up. It was March, the Wisconsin winter snow had melted, and spring was in the air.

In April, we received a letter from the FAA. We were both so excited that Joe could finally get going on his flight training. Hooray! We sat down and opened the letter together. Much to our dismay, the letter was not an approval.

Dear Mr. Moran:

We have received your electronically transmitted application for medical certification from your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Based upon our initial review of this information, we are unable to establish your eligibility to hold an airman medical certificate at this time.

Please note that your medical certificate has not been denied: however …

It pained me to see the look on Joe’s face as we read on. He had gone from elation to anguish in a matter of minutes. So had I. I reassured Joe that this was just a “bump in the road,” and we would work with the AME to get the FAA the additional information it requested in the letter, as follows:

  1. An updated detailed current history and clinical examination from your treating physician regarding your history of ADHD treated with medication. The report should address diagnosis with etiology, history and symptoms, treatment plan, a complete list of medications (name, dosage, frequency of use and side effects) if no longer taking include date of discontinuance, and prognosis. Include the results of any current testing deemed appropriate.
  2. An updated detailed current history and clinical examination from your treating physician regarding your history of Depression treated with medication. The report should address diagnosis with etiology, history and symptoms, treatment plan, a complete list of medications (name, dosage, frequency of use and side effects) if no longer taking include date of discontinuance, and prognosis. Include the results of any current testing deemed appropriate.

The very next day we forwarded the FAA letter to the AME. A few days later she replied by email that it was not her responsibility to provide the additional information the FAA had requested. We would have to obtain this from Joe’s primary care physician (family doctor). I thought this was odd, since that AME and Joe’s doctor worked at the same clinic. The AME had access to his complete medical record electronically, just as his family doctor did. I was disappointed with the way the AME just “washed her hands” from the matter. She had been paid, out-of-pocket, too, since insurance would not cover an aviation medical exam. Furthermore, she is supposed to be the expert in these matters, not the family doctor.

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Joe has had the same doctor his whole life. She is our family pediatrician and has treated Joe and his older sister since they were babies. At 20, my daughter still sees her. She is simply an excellent physician. She also has a military background, having taken the Army route for her medical training. We provided her with the FAA letter requesting more information, and within two weeks she had written an extremely thorough and detailed two-page report addressing Joe’s ADHD, depression, medications and treatment plans.

The report was inspiring and a testament to her skill and ability. She even included personal information about Joe’s character as an excellent student and his involvement with school activities. She could say these things because not only is she the kids’ family doctor, but she is also a neighbor. We thanked her for submitting the information requested with such diligence, which was truly above and beyond what was needed. Joe and I were confident this would be resolved soon.

In June, Joe received another letter from the FAA. The letter came via certified mail and noted that it was sent regular mail as well. “Finally, I can get going on my flight training,” he said as he eagerly opened the letter. He read it aloud as I listened intently.

Dear Mr. Moran:

Consideration of your application for airman medical certification and report of medical examination completed on March 5, 2018, discloses that you do not meet the medical standards as prescribed in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 67. Specifically under paragraph…treated with the use of the Aeromedically disqualifying medications Methylphenidate LA and Bupropion ER.

Therefore, pursuant to the authority delegated to me by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), your application for issuance of an airman medical certificate is hereby denied.

The rest of the letter again contained the legal warnings not to exercise airman privileges unless you hold an appropriate medical certificate and the Pilot’s Bill Of Rights Written Notification.

I must say that with the denial letter, I had lost hope. Joe had not. He asked me, “Dad, you’re a pharmacist. How can the FAA deny my medical certificate simply because I am taking an anti-depressant medication that is clearly helping me? You saw how I was before the medication. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. And without methylphenidate, I couldn’t concentrate, but now I can. I have straight A’s, a 4.0 GPA, with AP classes. I’m sure I couldn’t achieve this without these medications.” He was right. I didn’t know what to say. Helpless. What I did know is that I would not want Joe to be flying with untreated depression or ADHD affecting his concentration. How ironic. Joe still wasn’t ready to give up. He felt wronged. He identified a sentence in the latest letter and, like a skilled chess player, planned his next move. The sentence read:

This denial does not constitute an action of the Administrator under 49 USC 44703 and is subject to reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon (FAS) of the FAA.

I was moved by Joe’s resolve and assisted him in writing a letter to the Federal Air Surgeon. The letter started out summarizing the exam, the additional information provided as requested, and the request for Special Issuance with the two medications. The most touching parts of the letter were the next two paragraphs:

I am 16 years old and greatly want to proceed with flight training to obtain my private pilot certificate. I am responsible, well mannered, and doing great with managing my depression and ADHD. I have completed my sophomore year of high school and have straight A’s so far (GPA 4.0). Obviously, this would be difficult for someone to achieve if their depression and ADHD was not controlled and well managed.

My father is a private pilot and supports my desire to move forward with flight training. He has also been a practicing pharmacist for the past 25 years. He understands the importance of ensuring pilots are not impaired by disease and/or medications to fly safely.

We mailed the letter by certified mail.

A month went by with no response. I called about it weekly, and the same tired FAA staffers would say, “Your application is under review…we do not have a response yet.”

It was the end of July. Joe and I were camping at Oshkosh for AirVenture 2018. We decided to attend an educational session at the Forums on Medical Certificate Issues. How appropriate. The FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine had a strong presence at the show. One of the presenters, an FAA physician, agreed to meet with us back at the FAA Pavilion after the presentation to review our case. Could Joe finally get his Special Issuance? We had hoped we could finally get this resolved face-to-face with the doctors making the decisions. Hooray! We anxiously waited our turn in line and eventually sat down with an FAA staffer, who pulled up Joe’s file on his computer.

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He told us, “His medical certificate has been denied because he is using Aeromedically disqualifying medications Methylphenidate LA and Bupropion ER.” I thought to myself, “Okay, tell me something I don’t know.” “I’m sorry, but there is nothing more we can do.” I asked to speak with the FAA physician we met earlier at the Forum talk. The staffer pointed the doctor out, and we strolled over. At this point, I was at the end of my rope. We had not heard back from the Federal Air Surgeon (we still haven’t). I began questioning the FAA physician with something like, “I have been a hospital pharmacist for 25 years. My son is taking two medications: one for depression that keeps him happy and allows him to get out of bed in the morning, and the other for ADHD, which allows him to concentrate and do well in school.

“He wants to become a pilot, go to college and major in aerospace engineering. Why can’t he proceed with a Special Issuance?” The physician’s response was perhaps the most disheartening thing he could have said. “I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is. Perhaps someday he will outgrow the ADHD and not need Ritalin. He could also try one of the approved anti-depressants.” I told him that Joe had tried sertraline (Zoloft), and it failed miserably. Bupropion ER is the best medicine for his depression. I am not only a pharmacist but also his dad. I see it every day.

Joe is now in his junior year of high school. He still has a 4.0 GPA, plays varsity tennis and is planning on attending college. We still go flying together occasionally and enjoy watching movies starring the actor/pilots I idolize like Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. I recently asked him if he was still interested in aerospace. He smiled and replied, “Not really; I want to go into the automotive industry.” I can’t help but feel that over the past year, the FAA has possibly displaced the next Wright brother. On the brighter side, the automotive industry may have picked up the next Elon Musk.

Let me close by adding that last week, I chaperoned a bus trip for Joe’s high school automobile class from Madison to Chicago.

We went to the auto show.

The post Medical Certificate Issues Ends Flying Dream appeared first on Plane & Pilot Magazine.

Government Shutdown Means Airplane Safety Checks Are Suspended

Think it’s a problem that you can’t visit a national park or your favorite museum at the Smithsonian? How about passenger airplanes not getting safety inspections?

Due to the federal government shutdown, the Federal Aviation Administration has furloughed some 3,000 aviation safety inspectors, employees charged with making sure that aircraft operate safely and according to regulations.

“There is no one doing this job now,” says Kori Blalock Keller, spokesperson for Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the union representing aviation safety inspectors.

Aviation safety inspectors examine commercial planes and their maintenance records, talk to pilots to flag any potential problems, and may even ride along in the cockpit to make sure that procedures are being followed. Some of these checks take place during ramp inspections, a mostly random but consistent program of boarding planes for inspection while they’re on layovers.

“A lot of times, our inspectors catch little things and correct them before that plane takes off again,” Blalock Keller says. “If there are problems, the planes stay on the ground.”

According to a statement by the FAA, its Aviation Safety Organization is currently operating with a staff of 310 out of approximately 7,000 employees nationwide. The 310 include “managers in all field offices who will monitor the system and call back employees as necessary. If the furlough extends longer than a few days, we will begin to recall as many as 2,500 employees back to work incrementally, including safety inspectors, engineers and technical support staff, depending on need.”

A separate FAA statement reads: “Safety is our top priority. The FAA continues to support President Obama’s FY2014 budget, and strongly believes that Congress should resolve the lapse in appropriations immediately.”

 More informations

FAA Boosts Aviation Safety with new pilot qualification standards

 WASHINGTON — In a final rule to be published soon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it is increasing the qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.

The rule requires first officers — also known as co-pilots — to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours total time as a pilot. Previously, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.

The rule also requires first officers to have an aircraft type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

“Safety will be my overriding priority as Secretary, so I am especially pleased to mark my first week by announcing a rule that will help us maintain our unparalleled safety record,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most qualified and best trained pilots.”

The new regulations stem in part from the tragic crash of Colgan Air 3407 in February 2009, and address a Congressional mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 to ensure that both pilots and co-pilots receive the ATP certification. Today’s rule is one of several rulemakings required by the Act, including the new flight duty and rest requirements for pilots that were finalized in December 2011, and new training requirements expected this fall for air carrier training programs to ensure pilots know how to react properly in difficult operating environments.

“The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “With this rule and our efforts to address pilot fatigue — both initiatives championed by the families of Colgan flight 3407 — we’re making a safe system even safer.”

Other highlights of the rule include:

  • A requirement for a pilot to have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a co-pilot in air carrier operations prior to serving as a captain for a U.S. airline.
  • Enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.
  • An allowance for pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time or who have not reached the minimum age of 23 to obtain a “restricted privileges” ATP certificate. A restricted privileges ATP certificate allows a pilot to serve as a co-pilot until he or she obtains the necessary 1,500 hours. The options are:
    • Military pilots with 750 hours total time as a pilot;
    • Graduates holding a Bachelor’s degree with an aviation major with 1,000 hours total time as a pilot;
    • Graduates holding an Associate’s degree with an aviation major with 1,250 hours;
    • Pilots who are at least 21 years old with 1,500 flight hours.

    The rule is consistent with the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. The rule addresses recommendations from an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the FAA’s Call to Action to improve airline safety.

    >See Final Rule in Federal Register.

Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate–multi-engine airplane

Prior rules

  • At least 23 years old;
  • Hold commercial pilot certificate with instrument rating;
  • Pass ATP knowledge and practical tests; and
  • 1,500 hours total time as pilot.

New rules

  • Meet all requirements in prior rules;
  • Have at least 50 hours in a multi-engine airplane; and
  • Successfully complete new ATP Certification Training Program prior to taking the ATP knowledge test (after July 31, 2014).

Airline Transport Pilot certificate with restricted privileges (multiengine airplane rating only)

Prior rules

None

New rules

  • At least 21 years old;
  • Hold commercial pilot certificate with instrument rating;
  • Successfully complete new ATP Certification Training Program prior to taking the ATP knowledge test (after July 31, 2014);
  • Pass ATP knowledge and practical tests; and
  • At least 750 hours total time as (military pilots); or
  • At least 1,000 hours total time as pilot and a Bachelor’s degree with an aviation major; or
  • At least 1,250 hours total time as pilot and an Associate’s degree with an aviation major; or
  • 1,500 total time as a pilot.

Serve as First Officer (co-pilot) in Part 121 air carrier operations

Prior rules

  • Hold commercial pilot certificate with instrument rating; and at least a second class medical certificate.

New rules

  • ATP certificate with type rating for aircraft flown

OR

  • ATP certificate with restricted privileges and type rating for aircraft flown; and
  • At least a second class medical certificate.

Serve as Captain (pilot in command) in Part 121 air carrier operations

Prior rules

  • ATP certificate with type rating for aircraft flown;
  • At least 1,500 hours total time as pilot; and
  • First class medical certificate.

New rules

  • Meet all requirements in prior rules; and
  • At least 1,000 flight hours in air carrier operations (as co-pilot in Part 121 operations, as Captain in fractional ownership operations, as Captain in Part 135 turbojet, commuter, or 10 or more passenger seat operations, or any combination thereof).

English Proficiency endorsement

English Proficiency endorsement

Effective March 5, 2008, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires the following certificate holders who operate internationally to have a certificate stating that the holder is proficient in the use of the English language:

  • Private, commercial, and airline transport pilots with powered aircraft ratings
  • Flight engineers and flight navigators
  • Control tower operators

The ability to read, speak, write, and understand English is already a U.S. regulatory eligibility requirement; the FAA Registry began issuing all new certificates with this endorsement on February 11, 2008. The U.S. has notified ICAO that it filed a difference that will extend the U.S. compliance date until March 5, 2009, in order to provide sufficient time for all affected U.S. airman certificate holders to comply with the ICAO Language Proficiency airman certificate endorsement requirements.

Certificates that are ordered as regular replacement certificates will include the endorsement. You can order a replacement certificate on-line or by mail. You will be asked to register with Online Services if you don’t already have an on-line account. Note that there is a $2 fee for replacement airmen certificates.

Airmen who request temporary authority or verification of their airman certificate will not have the English proficiency endorsement until the replacement certificate has been requested and the $2 fee paid. If you have questions, you may contact the Airmen Certification Branch toll-free at 1-866-878-2498.

For more information regarding ICAO English proficiency, refer to Information for Operators (InFO) 08012 at the All Infos page.

Validation d’une licence française par la FAA

Validation d’une licence française par la FAA

La validation d’une licence française (privée et professionnelle), par les autorités aéronautiques des Etats-Unis d’Amérique, s’obtient uniquement auprès des bureaux FSDO (Flight Standard District Office) de la FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

En premier lieu, la FAA doit vérifier l’authenticité de la licence auprès de l’autorité de l’aviation civile qui l’a émise, en l’occurrence la direction de la sécurité de l’Aviation civile (DSAC), direction relevant de la direction générale de l’Aviation civile (DGAC). A cet égard, il vous appartient de renseigner le formulaire de vérification d’authenticité situé sur le site du “Airman Certification Branch” :

NOTA : case 11 de ce formulaire, vous devez indiquer l’adresse du bureau FSDO (Flight Standard District Office) dans lequel vous comptez vous rendre pour effectuer les formalités de conversion. Pour les adresses des FSDO sur tout le territoire américain, voir le site de la FAA : http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/
Le formulaire (n°AC 8060-71) renseigné, ainsi que les documents justificatifs :
– la copie de la licence,
– la copie du certificat médical,
– la copie d’une pièce d’identité comportant une photographie.
doivent être envoyés ou faxés à l’adresse suivante :
Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
Airmen Certification Branch, AFS-760
PO Box 25082
Oklahoma City, OK 73125-0082
Fax : 001 (405) 954-9922Il est impératif d’envoyer à la DSAC copie de cet envoi  par courriel exclusivementaux 2 adresses courriels suivantes en précisant dans l’objet du mél vos nom et prénoms :

(la taille des courriels en réception est limité à 4 M aussi pensez à fractionner vos envois en cas de dépassement).Il est inutile de contacter directement le pôle licences tout au long de cette procédure dont la responsabilité incombe seulement à la FAA.

Après un délai de 45 à 60 jours, le « Airmen Certification Branch » vous enverra une lettre confirmant la validation de votre licence. Une lettre sera aussi envoyée au bureau FSDO que vous avez indiqué dans le formulaire.

Vous pourrez ensuite vous rapprocher du FSDO et prendre rendez-vous avec lui pour la validation de votre licence. Les documents à fournir sont les suivants :

– votre licence originale,
– la lettre de Airmen Certification Branch qui vous a été adressé,
– une pièce d’identité comportant une photographie.Vous obtiendrez alors une validation américaine de votre licence de pilote privé française.
Elle sera valable aussi longtemps que votre licence française.

Pour plus de détail sur cette procédure, vous pouvez lire la note d’actualité validation d’une licence par la FAA.

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