Use of this Website
This website has been assembled under the HIMS Program Grant for the use of professional pilots, their families, and friends. It is arranged in sections covering the topic of chemical dependency as it relates to the unique working environment of the professional pilot. Each section is intended to “stand alone” regarding its subject matter. However, the website menu choices are also arranged to flow in a chronological fashion describing the steps leading to the return to work of the afflicted aviator. Company specific information on the website is provided as a general service and is maintained by each listed organization.
Alcoholism and other chemical dependencies are now recognized as part of a disease process. This disease affects commercial pilots to the same degree that it affects the general population. The HIMS program was established to provide a system whereby afflicted individuals are treated and successfully returned to the cockpit under the FAA Special Issuance Regulations (14 CFR 67.401).
The program is a cooperative one that includes the involvement of company representatives, pilot peer volunteers, healthcare professionals, and FAA medical specialists. While the program borrows heavily from treatment principles developed in both clinical and industrial settings, it has specific elements that reflect the unique nature of the safety-sensitive airline transportation system. Successful HIMS-model programs exist in the U.S., Canada, and other countries around the world.
In the 1970's, a medical research project called HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study) was spearheaded by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), a labor union, and funded by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a federal agency. This study was designed to test a program for dealing with the presence of alcoholism in the airline pilot population. Several factors prompted the development of a pilot specific model. The commercial aviation environment was not well suited for a traditional on-the-job supervisory program, and it was believed a recovering pilot's ability to function effectively was best observed by fellow pilots.
Accordingly, a peer identification and referral system seemed well suited for developing a pilot-centered, confidential, participatory program. Given the sensitive nature of a pilot's responsibilities and the interrelationship between medical and technical performance standards, it was apparent that involvement of the airline, the FAA, and peer pilots was essential to the success of the program. Since its inception, over 4,500 professional pilots have been successfully rehabilitated and returned to their careers.
The purpose of the HIMS program is to effectively treat the disease of chemical dependency in pilot populations in order to save lives and careers while enhancing flight safety. The HIMS concept is based on a cooperative and mutually supportive relationship between pilots, their management, and the FAA. Trained managers and peer pilots interact to identify and, in many cases, conduct an intervention to direct the troubled individual to a substance abuse professional for a diagnostic evaluation. If deemed medically necessary, treatment is then initiated. Following successful treatment and comprehensive continuing care, the pilot is eligible to seek FAA medical re-certification.
The FAA requires the pilot to be further evaluated by a specially trained FAA Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) who then acts as the Independent Medical Sponsor (IMS) to coordinate the FAA re-certification process. The medical sponsor provides oversight of the pilot’s continuing care. This care includes a monthly interview by a trained flight manager and by a pilot peer committee member, as well as periodic follow-up observations. Because of the relapse potential of chemical dependency, the monitoring will typically continue for several years after the pilot resumes his duties. The HIMS program is designed to ensure the pilot maintains total abstinence and to protect flight safety.