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The Notorious 18(v)

The FAA’s Application for Airman Medical Certificate (aka MedXPress, aka Form 8500-8) is not your ordinary government form. 

Filling it out accurately could make the difference between slipping Earth’s surly bonds and losing your wings. If the FAA alleges you made a fraudulent or intentionally false statement on the medical application, you will likely face emergency revocation of your airmen certificates (and, in certain cases, jail time). The whole form is a complicated messbut no question causes more confusion than the Notorious 18(v).

In fact, the FAA once analyzed question 18(v) and found that a reader would need more than 20 years of education to properly understand it.1 Despite knowing this, despite the GAO2 and the NTSB3 recommending that the FAA revise the application for clarity, despite AOPA providing comments to the FAA on the need to improve the application (and receiving no response),4 despite Congress reminding the FAA that the application should be “subject to a minimum amount of misinterpretation and mistaken responses,”5 and despite the database of NTSB opinions being replete with examples of airmen who have faced certificate action for answering the question incorrectly, the FAA has refused to meaningfully revise the application. Instead, the FAA has further complicated it by including additional information [+] boxes following each of the medical history questions and adding 856 words to the application, all without public notice or comment. 

I implore you to review the entire application carefully (including the [+] boxes). To the best of my ability, I will attempt to clarify the notorious question 18(v) based on the wording of the question and the [+] boxes.

You MUST answer “Yes” if any of the following has EVER occurred in your life:

  1. You were arrested, detained, or taken into custody by any law enforcement or military authority under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated by, impaired by, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol (even if you were not charged or convicted and even if your record was expunged).

  1. You were convicted (i.e., adjudicated guilty based on a jury, court, or military verdict or by a plea of guilty or nolo contendere/no contest) of any offense relating to driving while intoxicated by, impaired by, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs (even if you were not arrested, even if you were not sentenced, even if the conviction is being appealed or was overturned, and even if your record was expunged).

  1. You were arrested for, convicted of, or subject to an administrative action based on any offense that resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of your driver’s license or driving privileges in any state or country (even if the offense had nothing to do with alcohol or drugs).

  1. You were arrested for, convicted of, or subject to an administrative action based on any offense that resulted in attendance at an educational or rehabilitation program (even if the offense had nothing to do with alcohol or drugs). Examples cited by the FAA include, but are not limited to, anger management programs, drug or alcohol treatment programs, safe driving courses, etc.

Unfortunately, the FAA has no guidance for how to correct a mistake if you have answered this question incorrectly in the past. If you have made a mistake, you should consult an experienced aviation attorney. AOPA members with Pilot Protection Services can call us at 1 (800) 872-2672.

 

1U.S. Gov’t Accountability Off., GAO-14-330, FAA Should Improve Usability of its Online Application System and Clarity of the Pilot’s Medical Form, at 28 (2014).

2. Id. at 30.

3. Administrator v. Dillmon, NTSB Order No. EA-5528, at 15 (2010).

4. https://www.regulations.gov/comment/FAA-2019-0599-0002.

5. Pilot’s Bill of Rights, Pub. L. No. 112-153, § 4, 126 Stat. 1159, 1162-64 (2012).

 

photos of AOPA employee Ian Arendt

Ian Arendt

Ian Arendt is an in-house attorney with AOPA’s Legal Services Plan. The AOPA Legal Services plan is offered as part of AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services.

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