The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on April 2, 2010 that it will consider waivers (special issuance) of medical certificates to pilots who are taking medication for mild to moderate depression. Previously medications used to treat these conditions had grounded pilots from flying duties.
On a case-by-case basis beginning April 5, 2010, pilots will be eligible to apply for an FAA waiver consideration if they take one of four of these antidepressant medications:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Citalopram (Celexa), or
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
These aviators must apply for a special issuance (waiver) and may be allowed to fly if they have been satisfactorily treated on the medication for at least 12 months. Your first step in this process will be to contact your AME (Aviation Medical Examiner). The FAA also announced that they will not take civil enforcement action against pilots who take advantage of a six-month opportunity to share any previously non-disclosed diagnosis of depression or the use of these antidepressants. This is effectively an amnesty period for pilots to acknowledge a condition or treatment that they may have previously felt uncomfortable sharing with their AME.
“I’m encouraging pilots who are suffering from depression or using antidepressants to report their medical condition to the FAA,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associated with depression. Pilots should be able to get the medical treatment they need so they can safely perform their duties.”
The FAA’s policy follows recommendations from the AOPA, ALPA and the ICAO. There is precedent. The Civil Aviation Authority of Australia, Transport Canada and the U.S Army already allow some pilots to fly using antidepressant medications.
Psychiatrists and Aviation Medical Examiners who have specialized training under the Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS) program are slated to help the FAA evaluate and monitor pilots under this new policy. The HIMS program was established 40 years ago and has been highly effective for the assessment, treatment, and medical certification of pilots who need help with alcohol and drug issues.
The policy statement is on display in the Federal Register to allow for public comment until May 3, 2010.
FAA Contact: Alison Duquette or Les Dorr Phone: (202) 267-3883
- Code of Federal Regulations
- First-Class Airman Medical Certificate: 67.107
- Second-Class Airman Medical Certificate: 67.207
- Third-Class Airman Medical Certificate: 67.307