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Denied Once More

Posted By:
Jessica Jones
#1 Posted: 2/9/2010 18:29:28

I have posted several topics here in the past few months about my troubles with the FAA and getting my medical certificate.

My troubles first started when I went in for the first time to obtain my third-class medical certificate. I was denied due to a certain medication for depression, which I hadn't been taking but put down as part of of my medical history. I hadn't been taking the medication because starting lessons had pretty much pulled me out of the depressive slump I was in. When the doctor saw that I'd written down the medication, she automatically deferred me, even though I'd explained to her I was not taking the medication. She basically told me that, if it came to it that I was lying, it would be her head on the chopping block. So there was no way she could let me fill out another application. I left the doctor's office that day with a heavy heart.

Which then became even more heavy when my deferrment came back as a denial. I tried not to let this get me down and we sent in huge amounts of paperwork, including an entire (and I do mean _entire_) medical and psychiatric history. The psychiatric history did include my treatment for depression and ADD, but I figured this would not harm me because I am no longer taking the medications I was on and I am no longer being treated for either depression or ADD, which was backed up by a few recent visits to the doctor and paperwork included in the psychiatric history.

After waiting since late December - early January, I finally received another letter from the FAA saying that I have, again, been denied, because "due to [my] medical history, we are unable to establish your eligibility to obtain a medical certificate ... due to [my] history of depression ... and ADD ..."

Included with the letter was a long list of tests, some of which I've already done AND submitted to the FAA, that I would have to take and endure to be put up for review again.

At this point, I am pretty much heartbroken and I'm steadily losing faith that I'll ever be able to get a medical certificate and fly. It's getting expensive waiting, because I continue to take lessons; I have not soloed yet, but the flight school I am attending is allowing me to forgo the solo and continue with my training, which I am eternally grateful for. I could stop the lessons, but I don't want to be out of practice and I'm afraid quitting flying altogether until (if) this all gets sorted out will send me back into a depression.

Tomorrow, I plan on calling everyone I possibly can to see what I can do. I first plan on calling AOPA and getting help from their medical services as well as finding an AME certified psychiatrist in my area, since the letter I got from the FAA suggests doing that. I'll also call my current psychiatrist and ask for the results of some of the test they suggested I take, which I'd already taken, and calling another psychiatrist to take even more tests.


My question, though, is, what else can I be doing at this point? And how do I not lose faith? If anyone else has gone through this with the FAA, I'd like some advice on how to deal with this while keeping my head high.






"For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return."
Dolpho Silva-Sadder
#2 Posted: 2/9/2010 20:32:03

At this point you just have to go thru the procedure as it has now become since it is of course impossible to retrace steps. I  have heard that the reason for your denials (ADD) is common and the most but most difficult to overcome. Its doable based on current condition. Try to find AMEs that have assisted others with same conditions and can help. Ask around. Check the medical forum. The AOPA medical Forum doc lurkers are amazingly helpful. Hang in there.

Shannon Coleman
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#3 Posted: 2/9/2010 21:43:16

Sorry to hear about your troubles.  It won't help you now, but to anyone else that reads this thread, if you haven't went to the AME yet, talk to your instructor and/or AOPA BEFORE you go.  If there are any potential red flags, they may be able to help.

Good luck, Jessica and let us know how it turns out.

Joanne Palmer
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#4 Posted: 2/10/2010 09:57:34 Modified: 2/10/2010 09:58:18



Contact Dr Bruce Chien at bbchien@comcast.net .  He is a Senior AME and is on a first name basis with most of the people at OKC medical certification branch.  He has also helped others with your issue through the process to get a medical certificate.  You can tell him that ASHAIR sent you.


Note that it WON'T be easy.  You will essentially have to have a FULL independent psychiatric evaluation, This will normally NOT be covered by insurance as you want essentially NO diagnosis.  A period of successful living OFF medication is also helpful. 


Since you've been denied, Sport Pilot is now not an option so this is about your only option.  As much as I don't want to say this, you might want to stop your lessons until you get your medical at this point.  It might be longer than 6 months to clear all this up.  It will likely be at least 3. 


It IS possible.  Don't give up hope.




John Eiswirth
#5 Posted: 2/11/2010 00:30:54

Sounds like you have been offered a lot of good advice about your "plan A".  Persue plan A agressively, but if it doesn't work out as you hope, it doesn't mean you will have to quit flying.

 Develope alternate plans in case it doesn't.  Have you considered ultralights?  No medical is required, but flying lessons are needed (which you are doing now).  I  understand  that a medical is NOT required to fly gliders, but instructions are for the certificate.  Self launching (powered) gliders are still gliders.  You can probably network and find some situations where a person with your training would be appreciated in a vacant right seat (especially if you paid a share of fuel).

Don't feel trapped.  Depression can't touch you if you have more than one good way out !

David King
#6 Posted: 2/11/2010 00:42:19 Modified: 2/11/2010 00:46:24

I'm sorry Jessica this is wrong,  you seem like a decent person trying to do the right thing.

Once again the FAA proves it is behind the times. I have met some more pilot since posting about this months ago and they say they will not tell their flight doctors about anything. They go to a separate doctor for their medications and just lie for their third class medical. The FAA would rather have depressed people flying than admit they need help. I've even met a pilot who flies in Oregon who said he does not bother with a medical, it is his plane what are they going to do?

 This is what the FAA has created. Everyone who has ever taken a stop smoking medication has taken an antidepressant. Zyban and Chantix were classified as antidepressants first and need to be listed on your medical. Be careful taking heart medications, blood pressure medication, diabetic medications, and just about anything else.



Greg Pinnell
AirVenture Volunteer
#7 Posted: 2/11/2010 08:22:03

Sue:  Dr. Pinnell here from EAA's Aeromedical Council.  Why don't you give me a call 989-245-4494 or email me at gpinnell@charter.net and let me go over your situation, what you have submitted so far and see if we can help you around this.  Regards,  Greg

Gregory Pinnell, MD
Jessica Jones
#8 Posted: 2/11/2010 10:47:48

@David: "I have met some more pilot since posting about this months ago and they say they will not tell their flight doctors about anything. They go to a separate doctor for their medications and just lie for their third class medical. The FAA would rather have depressed people flying than admit they need help."

 After I'd fill out the application and was deferred, I had a lot of people tell me that I should have lied and not written anything down. In hindsight, maybe I should have been more careful about what I wrote down on the app, but I certainly did not want to lie, especially to the federal government. And you're right about the FAA would rather have depressed people flying than admit they need help. I shouldn't be -- no one should be -- punished for seeking help for illnesses, whatever they may be, and.. although I know a lot of things in life aren't fair, this certainly is at the top of the list and I think things should be changed.

Flying was what brought me OUT of my depression, a hole which I really don't need to fall back into again. They shouldn't be allowed to take this away from me.

It's also made me afraid to start any medications. I recently had a severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic I was described.. just yesterday actually. I almost had to be admitted to the hospital. The whole time I was in the doctor's office, all I kept thinking was, is this is any way going to affect my next medical (if I ever get the chance to fill one out)? I've been afraid to take anything, even benadryl and advil for sleep and aches and pains, just in case anyone has a problem with it. If I get sick and I think I might need some medication, I tend to just not let anyone know because I don't want it to affect my flying.

This isn't how things should be. I think the rules and regs are completely outdated and should be rewritten for the changing times. I can understand where they are coming from.. if I happened to have a panic attack in the airplane (which I'm 200% sure will never, ever happen), it would be on their butts, but honestly not everyone who is depressed or experiences anxiety acts this way, and I certainly don't. It might also be on their butts if I got distracted in the airplane and caused some sort of accident, but not all ADD patients are like this either. While I do admit, I have a problem focusing on certain things, the airplane and flying is not one of them. Even when I do get distracted, it's only for a few seconds, and it's usually on something on the ground that I just find so beautiful I cannot look away. I don't think this is a crime.


I've heard there have been a few things that are being done to try and get this rules changes, but the forecasted times for these updated regs, I've heard, is for a few years into the future, like 3-5 years, and I don't know about you, but I don't think I can wait that long. I love flying and everything about it. I practically eat, sleep, drink, and dream aviation. And since my faith has already started to dwindle in these past several months, I can't imagine what 5 years would be like.

"For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return."
Jason Borden
#9 Posted: 2/11/2010 20:13:33

I heard a little while ago (maybe a year ago) that Australia was experimenting with allowing pilots who take antidepressants to fly. The results of their experiment may help or hinder the effort to get this allowed in the US. But really, I don't think the Aussies will find it hurts any safety statistics.


I think the FAA's intent is a good one in generally not wanting people to fly who are taking mind-altering medication (there are a lot of medications that can make you pretty loopy). But in this case, assuming the non-altered state is normal (or even desired) is a bad one. Personally, I'd like to see anti-depressants be allowed, especially for a third-class medical. I suspect they can even add some relatively hassle-free checks to make sure the anti-depressants don't impair your judgement.


Dave McConeghey
#10 Posted: 2/11/2010 20:46:25

 Motorgliders (self-launching gliders) are basically airplanes with extended wings.  They come in many styles from a small inexpensive homebuilt single seater Monnett MONI to a very sophisticated high performance Stemme that cruises at 140 knots or glides at 50 to 1.  They come with single main wheels and out riggers or dual mains and a tailwheel, and even tricycle retractables.  Like John Eiswirth said the glider (including self-launch motorgliders) does not require an FAA medical and unlike the Light Sport requirement does not require even a drivers license.  They have fewer restrictions than operating under the Light Sport pilot/aircraft regulations. A good source of information is the Auxilliary-Powered Sailplane Association. The ASA lists Instructors who can train you. Their website is http://sites.google.com/site/motorgliders/the-asa  then click on Licensing and Training. You can also search for Motorgliders For Sale or  Motorglider Flight Training to find out more.

Files Attachment(s):
TaifunMotorgliderForSaleDaveMcConeghey316-409-9624.jpg (80314 bytes)
#11 Posted: 2/11/2010 22:00:42

I went through the same thing with the FAA. I had a a similar psychiatric history as well as a stroke and type 2 diabetes and after two years got my third class medical under a special issuance. The two year waiting period was because of the stroke. 

At the advice of my AME I hired  ARMA Research out of Watertown ,WI to help me gather the information necessary  to submit to the FAA. I needed a letter from my psychiatrist on his findings and that I was no longer in need for psychiatric medication. In my case it was the stroke that caused my depression. The trick is to follow the FAA's letter exactly as to what they will need and submit everything at once in one packet. I was granted a special issuance and now renewal of my third class medical is a breeze. Your situation sounds a lot less complicated than mine so I am very optimistic that you will be able to get your special issuance.

You don't need to hire a company to help you get the information the FAA needs. The reason I did is that my case was a lot more involved and I felt a littile intimidated dealing with the FAA.

Persistence is the key in dealing with the FAA. Come to think of it, so is flying.

Good luck to you and keep flying !



Andy Gamache
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#12 Posted: 2/12/2010 02:44:58




I highly recommend Dr. Bruce Chien. He is a miracle worker for these things. He's also leading the effort to have the FAA ease up on cases like yours. Dr. Bruce knows the ins and outs of the FAA medical process and knows the people that can make things happen for you. His email was posted earlier in this thread, but here is his Website (http://www.aeromedicaldoc.com/).


Unfortunately, Dr. Bruce and the other docs have stopped posting on the Red Board (AOPA), but I believe Dr. Bruce still posts on the Blue Board (www.pilotsofamerica.com). He's also on the Purple Board (www.purpleboard.net) but doesn't normally give medical advice there.


Also, Dr. Pinnell has offered his services to you. I haven't seen him in action the way I have with Dr. Bruce, but he's gotta have some inkling of what can be done if he's on the EAA's Aeromedical Concil. You may want to take advantage of his offer as well.


On last thing about either of these people. DON'T LIE. Dr. Bruce will drop you like a hot rock if he catches you in a lie. His reputation depends on everything being above board. If he, or Dr. Pinnell, don't have all the facts, they can't help you.


Good luck and hope to see you back in the air soon!!



(And if the worse happens, look at gliders. No medical required!!)

Hunter Heath
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberAirVenture Volunteer
#13 Posted: 2/12/2010 11:30:10

I want to emphasize what others have said in response to Jessica's problems:

1. If you even think you may have a problem obtaining a medical, do not start the process without advice from an EAA Aeromedical Council's AME advocate, AOPA's medical office, or an AME who does a lot of difficult applications.  Once the AME's office has handed you the form, the process has started and you may be in the soup.

2. Do not, repeat, do not lie to the AME or on the application form.  Read what it says on the application form-- falsification on the pilot medical form is a federal crime, punishable by big fines and time in federal prison. Some might say, "How will the FAA know?"  They may not-- until you have an incident or accident that leads to an FAA investigation.  I guarantee you that one of the first things they do is pull up your medical records and look for errors, omissions, or falsification.  They can subpoena medical records, doctors, etc. as they wish.  They crosscheck your medical statements against Social Security records (is the airman on disability for a disqualifying disease?) and state driver license records (unreported DUI convictions?) and so forth. The government is starting to apply harsh punishments for medical falsification, especially for covering up DUIs, heart disease, and the like.

Jessica, you've gotten a lot of good advice, and I hope it leads to actions that will allow you to obtain a Special Issuance medical and complete your training.

Hunter Heath III, M.D.

EAA 37802

Founding Chairman, EAA Aeromedical Council

The Hoosier Chief
Ried Jacobsen
#14 Posted: 2/12/2010 13:19:11

This is an excellent post, with a lot of great advice. 

As much as we like to think we are modern and civilized in the 21st century, in many ways we are stuck in the 19th century with attitudes and reactions to mental illness.  I am glad for the multitude of organizations that are pushing against the ignorance out in the community and educating people that the capabilities and limitations vary from individual to individual, and each case must be reviewed case by case.  One size or diagnosis does NOT fit all circumstances.

Push forward Jessica and good luck on getting the special issuance.  Keep us posted and let us know how you progress in the process.

David King
#15 Posted: 2/12/2010 15:36:27


Don't count of the FAA to change anything in the near future, as us older people can tell you nothing the government does happens quick. Those employees like to keep their jobs and drag things out. If they want to keep busy for a long time they should go to Alaska and start checking all those bush pilots who do not even have a license, no less a medical. Some kids in the bush learn to fly before they drive. It's amazing how and what they keep flying up there.

Was your ambition to fly for a living as a flight instructor and beyond? Those goals may be harder now, maybe another area of aviation like A&P or management. Then keep pursuing your flying while getting experience in other areas.

Rick Holland
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#16 Posted: 2/12/2010 19:52:35


Sorry to hear about your problem with the FAA (or as I call it the NSOS, Nanny-State On Steroids). I have researched this issue for many years and you have these options assuming you are sick of trying to get a third-class:


1) Do Sport Pilot, but if your medical has been denied that is not an option.

2) Start taking glider lessons.

3) Start taking motor glider lessons (and fly motor gliders, a Xenos is a great kit if you want to build something).

4) Continue your lessons through solo and go part 103 (if you want to build something the Legal Eagle XL and BeLite are good options).

Good Luck

Rick Holland

Justin Daugherty
#17 Posted: 2/13/2010 17:14:40


30+ years ago my dad was told he couldn't fly because he was blind in one eye, by everyone....he now has 15k hours + (lost track) of professional flying under his belt....

I'm sure its easier for everyone to deny you, then to let you fly at have something happen....like mentioned above there are some other options as well....

Jessica Jones
#18 Posted: 2/13/2010 20:02:49

Thank you everyone so much for all the advice you have given me.

I cannot say enough how much I appreciate belonging to such a caring community such as aviation and I could not imagine it any other way.

I've taken a few steps to getting back on track to trying to obtain a medical once more, but I'm off to a slow start, just trying to make sure I have everything I might need. I don't want to have to backtrack or start over again.


Anyway, thanks again everyone. So much.

"For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return."
Roman Makuch
Warbirds of America Member
#19 Posted: 2/20/2010 18:17:21

Going to your local member of congress can also help, since they control the FAA's purse strings.

Michael Goetzman
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
#20 Posted: 4/3/2010 10:52:08

I saw this today: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pilots3-2010apr03,0,899012.story?track=rss


so looks like they are going in the direction of balance for this issue.

Michael Goetzman | Milwaukee, WI
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