Hello all. About seven months ago I completed getting my special issuance approved by my HIMS AME. He sent his approval of my special issuance medical certificate in March and I have yet to hear back from the FAA. I am currently enrolled in a flight program at a University. However, if I do not get my medical by the spring semester, I will be forced to withdraw from school. This is because the only courses I have left in my 4-year degree are flight courses that require me to obtain my medical before my first flight lesson. All this being said, I am very frustrated with the FAA for taking over 7 months of lost flying time away from me and I need help or suggestions on what I can do so I don't have to withdraw from school. Any advice is much appreciated.
You might not like this advice, but mine is “Change your major.”
Since a HIMS AME is involved, it suggests you have issues the FAA considers mental illness related (drug/alcohol abuse, psychiatric conditions, etc.), and that doesn't bode well for a career as a professional pilot. . As you are discovering, such SI's take a lot longer than the average SI, and professional flying organizations like the military and airlines just don't want to see such history with new hires. You might get a Third Class to be a private pilot flying for fun, but beyond that, it's going to be a long, expensive, and torturous road. You should talk with some prospective aviation employers about your chances of hire as a pilot with your specific condition in your medical history.
And I have to take issue with whoever counseled you to enter a collegiate professional pilot program with this in your background. When I was running the aviation program at a university, I had a prospective student with a similar problem, and tried to talk him out of it. The university could not deny him entry into our program for various legal reasons, but I told him I was going to write him a letter explaining why I thought it was a bad choice, including the virtual certainty that he would never be hired to fly for an airline, and make him sign that he'd received it. I did NOT want him to spend $100K or so on the program and then sue us because he couldn't get a job in the field saying we never warned him. He eventually chose another major.
Your situation is not an unusual one. The unfortunate truth is that the FAA is currently short staffed and having difficulty processing applications in a timely manner. The fix, well that is easier said than done. This is a governmental agency with many moving parts, change takes time.
That being said, there is no way to know for sure when the FAA will have a final decision for you. In regard to your schooling, I would recommend speaking with the school and seeing if there is a possible plan B in the event you do not have a FAA response in time. In addition, in the event there are no opportunities to work for an airline when you graduate, consider what other options you may have.
The topic of SSRI use with a Special Issuance and working for an airline, is up for debate. The fact is that more and more pilots are now on SSRI’s and have Special Issuances for various health conditions. And while the airlines may prefer a pilot without a Special Issuance, those numbers of pilots are dwindling, while the need for pilots is increasing. This is where the school can be of help. Ask if they can connect you with some of these airlines and ask point blank where they stand on the topic.