Life Insurance

Lying to one’s AME is not a good idea - but is sadly not uncommon

A "policy" is defined by Merriam Webster, among others, as “prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs” or “a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions.” There are some policies germane to your life as a pilot that merit consideration.  

Obviously, there is the policy that you pay for to cover your personal aircraft, should you be lucky enough to own one (or several) or, of course to insure against misadventure in rental aircraft. The policy you take out to cover your life such that your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your demise is a responsible and considerate act. 

But what of other policies? I would offer up several that have one thing in common: honesty.

If you have children you may have read to them at some point a wonderful book by Stan and Jan Berenstain entitled The Berenstain Bears and the Truth, in which we see how one untruth leads inevitably to a web of deceit. The message to the young cubs, and any children hearing the story, is that dishonesty erodes trust in others and renders life’s journey more turbulent than it needs to be. The analogies for aviators are obvious and yet, sadly, we see evidence every day of pilots blurring the edges around the truth. It is a reasonable mechanism to ask children “is this the truth as it is, or the truth as you want it to be?” Sometimes the truth is inconvenient; better that than a fib that leads to potentially dire consequences.  

Lying to one’s aviation medical examiner is not a good idea but is sadly not uncommon. The regulations are quite straightforward and clear; if you have a medical condition and consult a healthcare provider, at the very least one has an obligation to report that interaction to the AME and, of course, in some circumstances one is required to self-ground or take other action. Railing against regulations is neither productive nor sane—they exist for a reason which may not be apparent nor pleasing, but they are regulations nonetheless. If one fails to report the interaction not only is an aviator breaching his or her duty, but he or she is potentially putting his or her own life or passengers' lives and others at risk. Even a small number of such cases impacts all of us, causing those opposed to general aviation to take issue with our right to fly. In the wake of the new world of BasicMed, although some pilots will not be seeing an AME, honesty with doctors remains of prime importance. 

As bad as lying to one’s AME, lying to oneself is infinitely worse and far more common. As part of the process of investigating every loss of life in aviation accidents, we ask how might the tragedy have been averted? Asking a question or two prior to every flight might reduce the workload of NTSB inspectors. Questions such as: “Given the weather is marginal, should I be flying today?” or  “Did I sleep well last night?” or “Are my skills up to standard?” 

Tools like the "IM SAFE" acronym are fine and dandy, but you have to employ them, every single flight. And recall that of all the policies out there, honesty is the best policy.

Jonathan Sackier
Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through AOPA Pilot Protection Services.

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