Many years ago, an airman visited my office at six-month intervals for his Class I medical. He was approximately 35 years old, in good health and his 8500-8 was always filled out perfectly with “no’s” on all of the items, particularly on item 18 in regard to misdemeanor or felony convictions.
He came to my office for many years for his medical. After one of his visits, I was called by the U.S. Treasury Department. I promptly went to the phone, but I have to admit I was quite nervous because we don’t usually receive calls from the Treasury Department. The woman on the other end of the phone said that she was going to come from Washington, D.C., to my office on a date that she set and she wanted to make sure I was in the office that day. When I asked her what this was about, she just said, “we will talk about it when I get there.”
When she showed up in my office, she asked to have this pilot’s chart pulled. The first question out of her mouth was, “Did you write anything on this front page?” I quickly responded that I had not and that the front page has to be filled out by the airman, not by a spouse or a friend, and certainly not by me. She said, “Okay, that is fine. I thank you for your time,” and started to leave. I stopped her. “May I be so bold as to ask you why this is so important that you have come so far to look at this one airman’s chart?” She said, “Well, actually, I don’t have to tell you, but I don’t mind because obviously your curiosity is piqued at this point.”
She stated that several years ago the airman had been convicted of carrying marijuana from South America to the U.S. He was arrested on the scene with hundreds of pounds of marijuana, was convicted and sent to a federal penitentiary. He spent five years in the penitentiary and was released after a parole period. He failed to put that on the form under item 18.
“What are you going to do?” I asked. She said they were going to turn it over to the local authorities to prosecute the pilot and most likely put him back in prison. My next question was, “If he had listed that, would it had made a difference?” She answered that, obviously, it would have. In fact, there would be no problems and she would not have made this trip to Tulsa.
Moral of the story: The FAA recognizes there are airmen that have made mistakes, anything from shoplifting to stealing cars to bringing marijuana into the country. The official stance is if a pilot has been convicted, served his time, did his parole and did not get into any problems after that, then he can regain his pilot’s license after a period of time. The way they look at it, the pilot has “cleaned up his act,” and paid his debt to society, so he can return to flying. But remember the 8500-8 is a federal form and it is against the law to lie when filling out this form.
A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE PROBLEM
We had another airman who applied for a medical who placed under Item 18 that he did have a conviction and listed a case number, but he refused to provide me with information about the conviction. Without the full information, (even though the FAA could probably get that from the justice system), I was advised by the FAA to defer him because he failed to tell us what he was charged with. A couple of weeks later I received a phone call from the airman stating he had consulted a lawyer and that if he did not receive his medical from me, he was going to sue me and the FAA. I contacted the FAA, and was told there has never been a successful suit against an AME. “However,” the official added, “he isn’t going to get his medical until he comes forth with the information.”
That airman still has not flown because he is being stubborn about responding to the FAA.
Dr. Guy Baldwin is a family physician and Senior Aviation Medical Examiner in Tulsa, Okla. A member of the EAA Aeromedical Council, he has more than 4,000 hours. He owns a Harvard T-6, a Cessna 210 and an Extra 300, in which he flies in airshows and aerobatic contests.