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Resources for Pilots

If a commercial airline pilot comes to your practice or treatment program, please take the time to check www.himsprogam.com/about-hims/ and become familiar with the particular requirements that are associated with pilots and their unique employment and licensing situation. 

Twice a year as part of their licensing requirements they are required to submit to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a medical update.  This is referred to as an “8500” which refers to the form number.  Along with questions related to a pilot’s medical circumstances are questions related to a pilot’s alcohol use and any arrests due to DUIs, etc.  There are significant penalties for not disclosing fully one’s history in this area.  There are also questions about any participation with any behavioral health provider.  A pilot who becomes involved with the HIMS program MUST (per the FAA) begin their treatment regime with at least a 30-day residential program.

Any substance abuse condition requires a prescribed course of treatment required by the FAA with a mandatory continuing care program, attendance at self-help meetings, possible meetings with an individual counselor/therapist, and follow-up testing.  It is highly recommended that before engaging upon a course of treatment that may or may not be judged appropriate by the FAA that a provider see the above website address, read through the description of the program and contact the pilot’s individual company HIMS contact recommended on this website.  Go to the above address, go to Get Help Now and then to Pilot Referral Info to obtain the email address and phone contact that can help you with the proper referral process.  

Air Line Pilots Association, International

Allied Pilots Association

Southwest Airlines Pilots Association

All commercial airline pilots must submit to a physical examination twice a year in order to maintain their pilot’s license.  As part of this examination they must complete an Application For Airman Medical Certificate (Form 8500) for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is a questionnaire that asks for specific medical information.  Failure to answer the questions accurately can result in a jail sentence of up to 5 years and/or a fine of $250,000.  There are several questions that relate to Behavioral Health and substance use.  Please note that the below conditions investigated by the FAA does not necessarily follow DSMV criteria.  They do not necessarily use clinical criteria outlined in the DSMV. 

The following can generally sum up these questions:

  • A clinical diagnosis of alcoholism or alcohol dependence.
  • A medical history of liver disease.
  • A medical history of central/peripheral nervous system problems.
  • Psychological dependence on alcohol/drugs either admitted to or by history.
  • More than one conviction for an offense involving alcohol, including non-highway arrests.
  • Contact with various health and social agencies in the community through contacts related to alcohol problems.
  • Treatment at an inpatient facility devoted to alcohol rehabilitation.
  • Mental disorders of any sort, e.g., depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Any failed drug test ever; or substance abuse or use of illegal substance in the last 2 years.
  • A history of any arrest(s) and/or conviction(s) involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug or any arrest or conviction, which results in the denial, suspension, and cancelation, or revocation of driving privileges.

If a pilot indicates that he has been arrested or charged with a driving offense, or reports any of the other criteria outlined above involving alcohol or drug abuse or has been treated for such, he must report this on this questionnaire.  This does include what is termed “mental disorders.”  Once this is submitted to the FAA, the agency will rescind the pilot’s license until such time as the pilot shows evidence of an evaluation, which typically involves completion of a 30-day residential treatment.  The pilot is also typically asked to enter the HIMS program that involves treatment, strict monitoring of AA attendance and strict monitoring and documentation of continuing care follow-up.

To quote the beginning introduction on the HIMS landing page: “HIMS is an occupational substance abuse treatment program, specific to commercial pilots, that coordinates the identification, treatment, and return to work process for affected aviators.  It is an industry-wide effort in which managers, pilots, healthcare professionals, and the FAA work together to preserve careers and enhance air safety.”


The acronym “HIMS” stands for Human Intervention Motivation Study and is endorsed by the FAA and allows commercial pilots to return to duty in a shorter period of time than they could accomplish on their own.  When a pilot experiences chemical dependency or abuse, the FAA recognizes two paths to returning to duty and receiving their SI.   1) A pilot can use their own resources to requalify for their medical qualification by proving to the FAA that they have met all the requirements and maintained complete abstinence for two years.  A pilot would be responsible for all costs related to this process.  2) A pilot can join his or her FAA endorsed HIMS program.  All of the major carriers have a HIMS program that their pilots can use to requalify for their medical.  The only exception to the 2-year rule recognized by the FAA is satisfactory participation in a qualified HIMS program.  Most commercial carriers provide the HIMS program at no charge AS LONG AS THE PILOT COOPERATES WITH THAT CARRIER’S HIMS REQUIREMENTS.

Upon completion of a 30-day residential treatment program, he or she will be asked to attend monthly meetings sponsored by the pilot’s airline or to provide documentation of the above through a private assessment.  Once the above conditions have been met the pilot is given a provisional license (called a Special Issuance or SI) and she/he will be asked to continue to attend monthly HIMS meetings until release. 

It is strongly encouraged that pilots contact their respective union groups before beginning the above.  Roughly 63,000 commercial pilots belong to Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and they can be contacted through www.alpa.org.  Southwest pilots belong to Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) at www.swapa.org and American Airlines pilots of whom there are approximately 17,000 are part of Allied Pilots Association (APA) at www.alliedpilots.org.


*Listing on our Resource Directory does not constitute an endorsement by NIEAPA or any of its members. All listings are subject to approval of the NIEAPA Board.

Northern Illinois Chapter Employee Assistance Professionals Association (NIEAPA)

Address: 400 E. Randolph #3115, Chicago. IL 60601
Phone: +1 (312) 756-7756
Email: nieapa@corpevent.com

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