Hopefully not a lost cause
Answered By AOPA
Back in 2001 I wanted to learn to fly so I got a student license and medical. I never started training then shortly after I received a letter about my medical inquiring about a dui I had received. By then some time had passed and hadn’t ever started the training and had no plans to due to the dui and life in general. When discussing with the faa I told them I couldn’t even find the medical to return it anyhow when we spoke we agreed since I hadn’t flown and had no plans to that it would basically be as if I didn’t ever apply. Well that’s not the case fast forward almost 20 yrs life is better and kids are grown so I wanted to pursue my sport pilot well I found out that my previous medical was put as a denial. There goes flying with my drivers license. I would just get another medical but I am worried I won’t be approved due to 2 medical conditions I was diagnosed with. First was narcolepsy before you say I shouldn’t think about flying with that condition let me say I have never had an episode EVER! A few years back I was tired feeling allot and did a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea and since it wasn’t that and there really isn’t a test for narcolepsy that was the label they put on me even though I had never passed out or anything like that and I take no medicine for it. The 2nd is I take pain medication as needed for lower back pain. I don’t take it daily just when I need to. I could stop the pain medication because it’s not something I take a certain amount of times a day. Anyhow I am worried the narcolepsy will automatically deny me even though I don’t take medication for it and have never had an issue with it. I feel they had no answer for why I was tired and had to put a label on me for insurance reasons. As far as the dui all them years ago I did all the treatments and actually have not had a drink since then. I didn’t really ever drink but I did that day and paid for the decision. Thanks for any advice. 
10 Replies
AOPA Staff Answer

You would definitely have some hoops to jump through. FAA would still need to see records from the DUI. Initial certification after a DUI steps can be found here. Narcolepsy is reviewed case by case. You would be denied initially and it would require a thorough review by the FAA. Typically FAA would need to see: 

1) A current neurological evaluation (from a Board Certified Neurologist or Sleep Specialist) in accordance with FAA specifications. The report must include specific comments regarding the occurrence(s) and frequency of cataplexy. 
2) A current sleep lab polysomnography (sleep study).
3) A current Multiple Sleep Latency Test(MSLT).

For your back pain it would depend on the medication and severity of back pain. If the medication is not allowed then you would need to come off of it before you would be eligible. FAA would want to know the cause of the pain, how severe the pain is (whether debilitating), if you have any range of motion limitations, and how you're managing the pain.

A couple of explanatory points on the FAA's attitude...

When you talked with the FAA about that DUI, I suspect that what they said is that they would not pursue any action for violation of a couple of regulations by not reporting the DUI, not that they would pretend you never applied -- that they cannot do legally.  By law, once an application is submitted, it can on.y be approved, deferred, of denied -- withdrawal is not a legal option.  Since the DUI was discovered as part of the review of your previously-issued medical application, they had no choice but to put it in the "denied" basket.

The problem with the narcolepsy diagnosis is that In in the FAA world, once a physician writes a diagnosis in your record, you have what it says unless and until you prove otherwise-- even if the diagnosis was erroneous,  This really bit a lot of folks who were diagnosed as kids in the 90's as ADHD in order to prescribe Ritalin to make them easier to manage in school.  Fifteen or twenty years later they want to fly, and now they have to go through a major psychiatric assessment much like what you face to prove now that they aren't ADHD.

For the back pain, if you're taking a prohibited prescription med, they will not trust you to take it only when you're not flying.  The half-lives if those meds are just too long for them to be fully out of your system before flying,  They want you off it completely.
Thank you all for the advice at least I now know where to start. I remember the conversation with the FAA back then didn’t go so well. Probably had to do with attitudes on both sides. I know all my sleep studies I had done came back negative for narcolepsy but my primary dr went ahead with the diagnosis probably because she was trying to look out for me not thinking it would ever be hindering me. As far as the pain med I rarely take them so stopping would be a non issue. And it may come down to me just staying in the ultralight category. I just picked up a belite procub that’s a super nice plane. I never wanted to haul a bunch of people or anything that’s why the sport pilot was so appealing but I am ultimately the one who made the choices back then. I could blame my age and all sorts of things but it just comes down to bad choices. Good thing was I hadn’t made it out of the parking lot when I was stopped so there wasn’t any kind of incident or even a ticket other than the dui but it was enough. Maybe some day I will be able to finish what I started but I am happy that I get to enjoy flight I just wish I could travel a bit further. Who knows maybe one day they will modify the 103 to allow a bit more weight. Again thank you for the advice I am glad I joined the AOPA👍
I wanted to add that I wouldn’t ever fly after taking anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ultralight or a 747 it is all the same to me. And if I thought I was going to have any issue with the narcolepsy I wouldn’t fly ether. I didn’t want anyone thinking I am flying anything with the possibility of being unsafe. If I had ever had even 1 narcolepsy event  I wouldn’t even drive a car. Just to clear up any future questions about me being reckless or anything. I value my life as well as others. 
I have no reason to doubt you, but there's just no way for the FAA to trust some but not others, so it ends up a "lowest common denominator" situation.  In any event, the guy you really want to talk with is Dr. Bruce Chien, who is a real expert on difficult medical certifications.  He comes around here usually after work (and he tends to work late).  You can also contact him via his web site www.aeromedicaldoc.com.  Bruce can not only give you all the details (probably for free), but also take you through the process (for a price).

Good luck!
Thank you so much for the info. I was just putting that out there because some people can always think the worst in others. You have been a huge help and a good person. I will get ahold of him I don’t mind paying for help with this at all even if doesn’t go my way. It is my hope that they will look favorably on me but also understand that they have to do what they think is right in the name of safety. On another note it would be awesome if they would take a look at the 103 again and maybe bump it up a bit but it would probably go the other direction so it’s probably better left alone. Lol again thank you for the help👍
Todd, you need a sleep study.  The kind you go to the hospital for, to debunk any diagnosis code of "narcolepsy.  Where you go from there depends upon, what you get!

The DUI: you have to  show from a DMV search that it is your one and only.
You will need the arrest record (of the patrolman) or whatever you can still obtain.
You will need a CADC evaluation per DSM 4 and FAA format.
And you will need a personal statement.  no 'tude, here for sure.  You have to remember you are the APPLICANT, not the boss.   That can be tough (Like my dad use to tell me, "It's all I your head"(.

Hey thanks for the reply. I got 2 sleep studies done and with both they did the daytime study as well. Both of the studies came back negative for sleep apnea and negative for narcolepsy. I don’t think my dr new what was up with me so she put down on my chart narcolepsy diagnosed thru symptoms even though the negative results. I know why she did it was due to my employer at the time was pushing for some sort of diagnosis. I mentioned it to her the other day and she implied she would cooperate and help in any way. As far as the dui back in 2000 I do actually have all the records still that I collected back then for the FAA so that might help. I have talked to a couple different lawyers that specialize in this stuff and they didn’t think I would have to much trouble but no guarantees of course and a ton of money. Do you or anyone you recommend to help deal with this by chance? I know it’s gonna cost I just want to know I am paying someone that can help. Thank you. 
Todd Heath:
I don’t think my dr new what was up with me so she put down on my chart narcolepsy diagnosed thru symptoms even though the negative results. I know why she did it was due to my employer at the time was pushing for some sort of diagnosis.

Physicians who do that sort of thing aren't doing their patients any favors at all. 😒

Get to a credentialed, Academic appointed Sleep Doc. Get an opinion.!