The AOPA website lists four medications as acceptable treatments for depression. I was treated with one of them, but it ended up making things far worse, to the point where I had issues with suicidal ideation. I've since stopped taking it and, while I'm still somewhat depressed, no longer have those thoughts, and don't have any issues getting along with daily life.

My depression is more along the melancholic lines, so I basically just don't find most things enjoyable. Being in the air is one of the few things that helps, so obviously I'm worried about not being able to do so. I don't have any of the symptoms that would seem to have an impact on actually flying, but I know having a history is a problem, so I've been trying to figure out how much this will affect things.

Not sure if aircraft type matters for medical requirements, but I was hoping to either fly helicopters commercially, or in the very likely case that I can't find a helo school, I'd probably end up crop dusting.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi! Welcome to Aviation.SE. Since you mention AOPA, can we assume that you are interested of the situation in the United States? You can edit the text and add an 'FAA' tag to help narrow down the question :) $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2016 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerDurden Yes, but that's making the assumption that anyone with depression is automatically a murderous psychopath. If that were the case, you'd see that kind of news daily. That guy wasn't just depressed, he was mental. $\endgroup$
    – Trace
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ As for the tags, @MikeFoxtrot thanks for the tip, and, yeah, in the U.S. Haven't used SE much before, so I'm still trying to figure things out. $\endgroup$
    – Trace
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ If you aren't already an AOPA member then you should definitely join. They offer medical advice and there are a lot of detailed discussions in their member forums (the medical one is moderated by an AME) about depression, meds etc. But ultimately you'll have to see an AME to get advice on your personal situation. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Richard or a truck driver. There's plenty of non-passenger commercial flying. $\endgroup$ Commented May 5, 2016 at 23:23

5 Answers 5


This is one of those questions where you really need to talk to an AME, preferably one who has significant experience working through these sorts of issues. In order to get the Class II medical that you'll need to fly commercially, you'll end up needing to work through the process anyway, so you're probably better off starting with the expert, rather than with a message board like this one.

The only case where you'd save any money by starting here is if someone here were to accurately tell you that there is no need to go to an AME as there is no way anything could possibly work. I doubt you're going to get that sort of advice, because (a) we don't have any AME's that post here on av.se, as far as anybody has ever self-identified, at least, and (b) this stuff is sufficiently complicated that you don't want to trust a layman's info or opinions, even one who "knew somebody who had a similar situation."

That said, I'd suspect that the chances are pretty good that you may well be able to get a medical certificate, so I would encourage you to pursue that path. Let a good AME take a look at the specifics of what your history looks like, and listen to his/her advice about what would need to happen (maybe very little, maybe quite a bit) in order to satisfy the FAA.

This thread deals with an entirely different medical condition, but the answers, and the logic behind them, apply here as well.

Be honest with the flight surgeon, and don't let random posters here talk you out of giving yourself every opportunity to pursue your dream of flying commercially.

Best of luck to you!

  • $\begingroup$ I'll probably do that, then. Just wanted to post here before hand in case anybody knew. But, yeah, talking to someone who does it for a living's the only way to be sure. $\endgroup$
    – Trace
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 23:19

I have a history of depression and hold a 3rd class medical certificate. In my case the depression is managed by medication so the certificate is issued under what is called a Special Issuance (SI). Therefore I have personal experience with the extra "hoops" involved that others have mentioned.

You must start with a consultation with a HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study) AME. These doctors have additional training and familiarity with the depression and anti-depressant SI protocol introduced in 2010.

The AME who moderates the AOPA medical issues forum is an excellent starting point (he helped write the protocol that the FAA adopted) and you can contact him directly for advice. Alternatively you can find a HIMS AME in your local area by consulting the FAA's official list.

Good luck!

  • $\begingroup$ I looked up HIMS and this seems to be a program for alcolholism only. Do they do other conditions too? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 14:25

This is what the medical certification standards for third class say.

Second class's standards text in the "mental" section is verbatim to third class standards.

§ 67.307 Mental.

Mental standards for a third-class airman medical certificate are:

(a) No established medical history or clinical diagnosis of any of the following:

(1) A personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts.

(2) A psychosis. As used in this section, “psychosis” refers to a mental disorder in which— (i) The individual has manifested delusions, hallucinations, grossly bizarreor disorganized behavior, or other commonly accepted symptoms of this condition; or (ii) The individual may reasonably be expected to manifest delusions, hallucinations, grossly bizarre or disorganized behavior, or other commonly accepted symptoms of this condition.

(3) A bipolar disorder.

...[stuff about drug and alcohol abuse truncated]...

(c) No other personality disorder, neurosis, or other mental condition that the Federal Air Surgeon, based on the case history and appropriate, qualified medical judgment relating to the condition involved, finds— (1) Makes the person unable to safely perform the duties or exercise the privileges of the airman certificate applied for or held; or (2) May reasonably be expected, for the maximum duration of the airman medical certificate applied for or held, to make the person unable to perform those duties or exercise those privileges.

If a medical is denied the FAA can choose to make exceptions.

§67.315 Discretionary issuance.

A person who does not meet the provisions of §§67.303 through 67.313 may apply for the discretionary issuance of a certificate under §67.401.

Here is a link to §67.401

My personal opinion on the matter is that you will probably be able to get a medical and you may have a couple of extra hoops to jump through. I'd think the fact that you've proven to be stable and aren't on medication will help you.


With depression you can be issued a medical if it’s treated with one of the four SSRIs. It’s the HIMS program and you’d have to see a HIMS AME. Situational depression and recurrent major depression are different. Likely a special issuance - but I can’t say for sure.

  • $\begingroup$ On this sort of topic some references would be very useful given the consequences, and 'but I can't say for sure' is not very helpful. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ faa.gov/ame_guide/app_process/exam_tech/item47/amd/… I hope this is helpful. There is a process that they use and hopefully it all works out for You!! $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @GremlinWranger In some questions, it's certainly possible to have a certain answer, and a "can't say for sure" answer to those questions isn't very useful. Here, however, a layman who isn't familiar with all the details of an individual's case CAN NOT say "for sure" what that person's results will be, but it's still useful info to describe general principles that the AMEs refer to. So much turns on the facts of a particular case, that it's entirely valid to say, go see the doctor, your chances seem reasonable, but only the AME can say for sure. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 16:46

I remember two Spanish sayings:

–Uno es prisionero de lo que dice, y dueño de lo que calla...

–A buen entendedor, pocas palabras bastan...

An approximate translation could be:

–One is prisoner of what he says, and master of what he doesn't say.

–Few words are enough for he who understands well.


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