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.