My husband's dream was getting his private pilot's license which he just got in August.

He was diagnosed with depression about 14 years ago and in medication less than a year. He has been great since - no depression or meds.

He did his physical this summer and got the all clear - he answered everything truthfully. Fast forward - he passed his tests and flight and has been flying since. Today in the mail he gets a letter from FAA saying his medical is rejected because he had a history of depression.

  • can he fight this and how?

  • how long is a depression bout from early 20s going to follow someone in life?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Anna, and welcome to Aviation.SE. Please take the tour to learn a bit about how this site works and avoid common pitfalls like commenting via answers or answering in comments :) Good luck and I hope you stick around! $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2019 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ Contact Bruce Chien $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Nov 26, 2019 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ I also have things in my past that wouldn't pass a Standard Issuance, and I sympathize. I would suggest to your husband something that worked very well for me: Find a local soaring club and get a Glider rating! With a private ASEL rating already, the requirements are modest. You don't need a medical - you can even have been denied a medical; you just need to self-certify that you have no condition unsafe for flight, which the past depression seems not to be. It's tons of fun, makes you a better pilot, and many touring motor gliders are just as capable as an airplane. See ssa.org to get started $\endgroup$
    – rgeorge
    Nov 27, 2019 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


There are Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) who specialize in special issuance medicals. It is probably best to use one of them instead of your regular AME. This type of special issuance may require a battery of psychological tests and it may get expensive. But the good news is that once he has his special issuance, he can fly under Basic Med, so he only has to jump through the hoops once.

I know of two who are regular participants on pilot message boards and they are well-respected.

Bruce Chien, MD http://www.aeromedicaldoc.com

L B Fowler Jr MD [email protected].

Edit: I just ran across a fairly long post on Pilots of American that addresses a similar issue with a good (but time-consuming and expensive) outcome.

I wanted to share my story of a difficult SI in the hopes that it will give others some insight and perhaps courage to not take 'no' for an answer.

I had been diagnosed with mild depression during my senior year of high school 25 years ago. The psychiatrist I had been sent to put me on Zoloft (Sertraline), which I guess helped. I stayed on it via my family doctor for the years afterwards, not really giving it much thought, and never realized the difficulty it would cause in working towards a PPL someday. …


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