To Become a helicopter pilot is a major life goal of mine. My aunt was a naval pilot, when she took me up in a helicopter it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Background: Today I have a job as a software developer at a successful company, I have graduated college in engineering. I work out regularly and eat healthy, I am able to complete 15 reps of pullups. I have excellent vision. My temperament is mild. I am reliable and prompt at work and I treat others as I would like to be treated.

Last year I was denied my class 3 medical license primarily due to being prescribed an antidepressant, which I was prescribed in February of 2015 as an off label treatment for ADD, I never took a single pill as the side effects scared me, also I am not depressed so it was a little off putting. There were complications due to my having received some counseling for alcoholism in college. In reality I made some mistakes in college and did not drink responsibly on a few different occasions, I have never been a regular drinker. It was possibly the new environment and the fact that I had no experience drinking. I have never been arrested, I have no DUIs or any of that nonsense. Receiving this news was very difficult considering the cost, time, effort and the fact that I did not even take any of the medication.

Currently I am not taking any medications or being treated for any issues. Job is going well, I experience a reasonable level of fulfillment and even volunteer on occasion. Getting my pilots license is a major goal of mine. Recently I decided to cut down on drinking, I now almost never drink unless it's with family or old friends. Realistically that ends up being one or two drinks less than once a week, I would not mind completely abstaining.

My primary question is: would it be worth it to again pursue the class 3 medical? Or will I be denied once more at this point? If this is the case, are there additional measures I can take to ensure that I get this license?

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    $\begingroup$ You really ought to seek advice from a certified aero-medical. Random people on the internet are not able to accurately estimate the outcome of your specific case. Good luck! $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2016 at 17:47
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Join AOPA and ask their medical team and in their medical forum, and do not apply for a medical again without extensive consultation with a senior AME first. Things are complicated right now by the third-class medical reform going on and your history is problematic (I'm not judging, it's just a fact that alcohol, counselling and ADD are all major red flags at the FAA); once you have a rejection it's extremely difficult to get past that. It also closes off the option of flying as a sport pilot with a driver's license instead of a medical. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 23, 2016 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


Take steps and do your homework BEFORE applying for your medical through FAA MedXPress!

I suggest discussing your concerns with a qualified Aviation Medical Examiner or beforehand, assuming you are a member, with AOPA Legal and Medical Services. AOPA has an excellent list of resources on health conditions that may affect certification.

Because a possible history of counseling may qualify as treatment, consider the alcohol and drug abuse guidelines. Note the phrase complete abstinence.

1. To be considered for medical certification, you should write to the FAA, stating that you have completed at least one full year of recovery with evidence of complete abstinence after being treated for drug or alcohol abuse. Although the Part 67 regulations require that there be a sustained period of abstinence of no less than the preceding two years, pilots may be considered for recertification as early as one year after successful treatment with appropriate documentation.

2. The FAA will require the following:

a. Your complete treatment records and discharge summaries.

b. An evaluation conducted by a professional who has had training in diagnosis and/or treatment of addictions. These professionals include substance abuse counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists, other physicians with training in addictive disorders, or members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). (A psychiatric and psychological evaluation may be required if the initial evaluation is inconclusive).

c. Evidence of successful completion of an inpatient or intensive outpatient program with a documented commitment to abstinence.

d. Participation in an acceptable aftercare program consisting of individual and group counseling sessions for at least 12 months.

e. Establishment of a monitoring system that includes a physician with expertise in substance abuse disorders, and

f. Additional monitoring reports from employers, family physicians, or others, as well as alcohol testing when indicated.

The mental health section has a page on ADD/ADHD. Summary excerpt is below.

Because of the potential for significant underlying psychiatric or psychological problems and the side effects of medications, the FAA does not currently allow medical certification for a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD requiring the use of medication.

For medical certification consideration, you will need to have discontinued all psychoactive medications for at least the preceding 90 days. After being off the medications for 90 days, a neuropsychological evaluation should be conducted. The neuropsychological evaluation must also include the following three tests:

  1. Trail Making Test
  2. Wisconsin Card Sorting Test
  3. Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT)

If the airman is an adult who has been prescribed one of the stimulant-type drugs for ADD, but has not been diagnosed with the disorder, the medications will have to be discontinued for three days before undergoing the neuropsychological evaluation noted above.

Because you may have a history of treatment with antidepressants due to the past prescription, the mental health section has a page on special issuance for depression with antidepressant usage. Summary excerpt is below with emphasis in the original.

Effective April 5, 2010, the FAA began considering individuals for special issuance medical certification who are being treated for depression with one of four specific antidepressant medications. All classes of medical certification will be considered, but individuals who are granted a special-issuance medical certificate under this policy may take only one type of antidepressant medication limited to the following four medications: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), or Escitalopram (Lexapro). All these medications are SSRIs, antidepressants that help restore the balance of serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical substance found in the brain.

Increasingly accepted and prevalently used, these four antidepressants may be used safely in appropriate cases with proper oversight and have fewer side effects than previous generations of antidepressants. While the focus of this policy statement is on individuals being treated for depression, the FAA realizes that these four medications may be used to treat conditions other than depression. It should be noted, therefore, that, in all instances, the FAA will continue to consider applicants and make determinations on a case-by-case basis under the special-issuance process just as it always has.

No regulatory changes are being made under this policy. Further, the FAA continues to believe that applicants requiring use of multiple antidepressant medications or use of any other psychotropic medication in conjunction with any one of the four specified in this policy will not meet the criteria set forth under this policy. The use of psychotropic medication continues to be disqualifying under the medical standards and special-issuance certification will be granted only after thorough analysis of each individual case presented and only when appropriate conditions and limitations are in place so that the applicant may safely be permitted to operate an aircraft. It should be noted that as new information becomes available and recommendations from the medical community change it may be necessary for the FAA to again revise its policy.


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