A representative of the AOPA has sent me a copy of a proposal that they sent the the FAA in 2006 requesting policy changes in how the FAA views the status of pilots using antidepressants. As you may have read I challenged the AOPA to share what they have done to stand up for pilots with depression. This proposal was sent to me with the request that I do not post it on my blog. I will honor that request, but I also will make some comments on what I have read.
First, I was pleased to see that the AOPA made an attempt to address this issue. The proposal asked for the FAA to change its policy and they laid out some guidelines that they felt should be put into place if there were any changes. I was deeply disappointed after reading the proposed guidelines the AOPA had suggested. The AOPA stated that only third class medicals should be issued to pilots on antidepressants. Luckily, the FAA is actually looking at changing things for all three classes of medical certification.
I would think that an organization that is supposed to represent pilots would represent pilots at all levels. I cannot understand why the AOPA would suggest that only third class medicals be issued for pilots on antidepressants. This simply would go against what is trying to be accomplished by any changes at all. If the FAA were to go along with the AOPA’s suggestion then working pilots would be in the same situation that they are now. Which is that professional pilots would not be able to seek medical attention for their ailment. This would force working pilots with depression to continue to fly while they are not completely safe. The idea of allowing pilots to fly while using these medications is to make the sky a safer place.
As I have mentioned before, all the doctors I have talked told me that it would be much safer to have a medicated pilot flying rather than a pilot who is depressed and not being treated. Other countries have made the step forward. Now it is time for the FAA.
So, here is my grade for the AOPA. They get an A for at least trying to bring this issue to the forefront. However, when it comes to their ideas of how to go forward I would have to give them an F.
Let me clear up any confusion that I may have caused in this post. I have been told that the administrator has approved going forward with allowing medicated pilots to fly on all three classes of medical certificates. However, there is still a great deal of government bureaucracy to be dealt with before there is a final word. Therefore, the FAA has gone above and beyond what the AOPA was asking for by including 1rst, 2nd and 3rd class medicals in this change. But the AOPA suggested that the change apply only to 3rd class medicals.
Now it is a matter of seeing what actually happens.
Keep an eye on the sky!