I believe I can fly... Oh. Darn.
April 26, 2010 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to become a pilot with diagnosed ADHD and depression? (Particularly, work for a major airline?) If you've done it, I'd like to hear from you.

I've done the google research so I'm mostly looking for personal anecdotes... if you had the conditions and were on medication, did they automatically say "no?"

If you were required to go off the meds, was it actually possible to function without them and what types of things did you have to do to make that possible?

I ask because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot... but ran into this issue.

I see there's a way around it by showing you can function without the meds, and both my diagnosis were iffy enough that it'd be easy to discredit them anyway (was actually really freaking hard to get diagnosed) but therapy, self-help books, etc never helped me feel better... the only thing that worked was meds. So I'm not too interested in going off them.

Is there anything I can do, or do I have to give up this dream?
posted by biochemist to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
You've done the google research, so I assume you've seen the new guidelines for depression medication (in the US)? This has been in the news a lot recently.
posted by meerkatty at 2:15 PM on April 26, 2010

Jeez, guess I should've checked the date on my research.
posted by biochemist at 2:16 PM on April 26, 2010

One thing you may one to ensure is that your real name is not linked to your Metafilter account by any web searches just in case any potential employer decides to check you out online.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:17 PM on April 26, 2010

I don't know you, or your particular symptoms, but I have a child (now adult) with ADHD and I know something about airline piloting. I would not want to fly behind anyone with his manifestation of ADHD, meds or not. Sorry.

Is this something that is REALLY important to you? I gave up (for other reasons) my dream of a career as a commercial pilot, and am very happy with how my life has turned out.

Whichever way you go, I wish you luck and hope that it turns out well for you.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:19 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can consult about this anonymously and in great detail with both the AOPA (if you're a member) and the FAA. Don't even think about trying to take your ADD meds 'under the radar' ... If you get caught, the penalties are quite severe.
posted by dacoit at 4:18 PM on April 26, 2010

Honestly, this is going to be a tough road. You don't just have to convince the FAA you're safe to fly, you have to consider the company that will hire you. And the standards for flying commercial scheduled service are much stricter than for private pilots.

The recent decision about SSRIs for pilots is encouraging. The primary document for that is Docket No. FAA-2009-0773 Special Issuance of Airman Medical Certificates to Applicants Being Treated with Certain Antidepressant Medications. Could be worth a read, but it's only one part of the puzzle.

You should talk to an expert. The AOPA is one place to go. An informal consultation with an Aviation Medical Examiner is another, but do not do any sort of formal medical exam with an AME until after you have a plan for documenting your health. You might also get some help reading Pilots of America, you could post your question there anonymously, too.

Good luck! Your health is important, I'm glad you've found something that helps you.
posted by Nelson at 7:01 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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