When a Pilot Fails a DOT Drug Test

The FAA’s guidelines at Order 2150.3b call for the revocation of all certificates when a pilot fails a DOT drug test. All Part 121 and Part 135 (and some Part 145) operators are required by the FAA at Part 120 to test pilots and other certificate holders performing safety sensitive positions for a variety of reasons. The variety of DOT drug test performed pursuant to Part 120 are: pre-employment, random drug testing, post-accident, drug testing based on reasonable cause, return-to-duty testing, and follow-up testing.

While the sanction for a failure of any of these types of tests is a minimum of revocation of your medical certificate, this discussion will be limited to failure of random, DOT drug tests; failure of a random, DOT drug test is quite common and carries a sanction of revocation of your airman certificate, as well as your medical certificate.

When you fail a random, DOT drug test, you will likely first be called by the medical review officer (MRO) to discuss potential medical explanations for the failure. This phone call is very important, as what you tell the MRO can and will be used against you by the FAA. If the MRO determines that there is not a legitimate medical explanation for your failed test, the failure will be reported to your employer. In turn, your employer will report the failure to the FAA. You may or may not be terminated by your employer at this point.

Next, the FAA will send you a Letter of Investigation. Again, anything you say or do in response to the Letter of Investigation can and will be used against you – do not assume that you can explain away your failure to the investigator. The last administrative step before an appeal to the NTSB is usually receipt of an Emergency Order of Revocation.

An Emergency Order of Revocation for failure of a random, DOT drug test is appealable to the National Transportation Safety Board. When appealing a failed, DOT drug test revocation, there are numerous arguments that should be looked at, including proper collection, testing, employer reporting, and adherence to Part 40 (the DOT’s “handbook” for drug testing).

It is recommended that you retain a FAA defense attorney as soon as you learn of a failed DOT drug test. If you failed a DOT drug test, call your FAA defense attorney, The Pilot Lawyer, at The Ison Law Firm to discuss your options.

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