The general aviation community and the FAA strictly adhere to regulations spelled out in FAR 91.17 regarding alcohol use, which calls for eight hours between bottle and throttle, and requires less than .04 percent by weight of alcohol in the blood. As a result, alcohol misuse is a factor in only 1.1 percent of all accidents, according to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's 2004 Nall Report.
Alcohol-related offences are taken so seriously that even motor vehicle offenses, including warnings, that involve alcohol could jeopardize a pilot's medical and pilot certificates.
"The FAA might give the benefit of the doubt on the first conviction, as long as all the required reports are submitted, but after that the FAA will want to see all driving and court records pertaining to those actions," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "And if there is evidence of substance abuse or dependence, your medical certificate application is likely to be denied."
Plus pilot certificates or ratings can be suspended or revoked, and any application for a certificate or rating could be denied for up to one year.
According to FARs 61.15 and 61.16, after any DUI/alcohol-related motor vehicle action, you must submit a report to the FAA Internal Security and Investigation Division within 60 days of the date of conviction or administrative action. Administrative action is the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of a driver's license, or the failure of or refusal to take a Breathalyzer test.
Failure to file a report with the Internal Security Division within 60 days may result in the suspension of your airman certificate for up to 120 days.
"If you miss the 60-day deadline, it's best to file the report anyway. A report filed late is better than not reporting at all and having the discrepancy become apparent at the time of your next medical renewal," Crump said.
You also are required to report it on your next FAA medical application. Question 18v of the application asks if you have a "history of any conviction(s) involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; or a history of any conviction(s) and or administrative action(s) involving an offence(s) which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges or which resulted in attendance at an educational or rehabilitation program."
"Don't even consider not reporting any such actions on your medical application," Crump said. "The FAA checks driving records, and they will catch any inconsistencies."
The FAA cross-checks medical applications against state department of motor vehicles and the Department of Transportation's National Driver Registry to catch any incidents that were not reported on the medical. The FAA Aeromedical Division also checks to make sure alcohol-related actions were reported to the agency's Internal Security and Investigation Division.
If it is your first offense, and the AME does not suspect an underlying problem, such as alcoholism, he or she can issue your medical certificate. And you are not required to provide any documentation.
However, if it is a subsequent alcohol-related conviction, your medical will have to be deferred to the FAA. The FAA will require you to submit all driving and court records related to the administrative actions. If there is evidence of alcohol or drug dependence, your application automatically will be denied under FAR Part 67. And you will not be able to seek recertification until you can demonstrate total sustained abstinence and recovery from alcohol (or the drug) for at least 24 months.
November 10, 2005