Psychologist and Evaluator
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 577 - 4750

Aviation

Pilot Psychological/Neuropsychological/

HIMS Evaluation/ATC Tier Two Reviews

Pilots, ATC’s (Air Traffic Control) and pilot candidates may be required to obtain a psychological and/or neuropsychological assessment as part of their Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certification.

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I am qualified to provide testing for HIMS evaluations and the CogScreen -AE (Aeromedical Edition). The purpose of testing is to evaluate for potential neurocognitive or psychological deficits that may interfere with flight performance or flight training.

  • Testing involves face-to-face assessment of cognitive functioning, attention and concentration, processing speed, executive functions, personality functioning, and substance use.
  • Computer-based assessment is often part of the assessment. In addition, the candidate will complete self-reporting behavioral inventories assessing psychological functioning. Contact with loves ones and colleagues may be required.
  • Comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations require 7-8 hours, conducted over two days.
  • The CogScreen -AE alone requires 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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In some cases, the candidate may also be required by the FAA to obtain a urinalyses on the same day as the testing. Call or email directly to discuss your specific situation.

 

Pilot Evaluation FAQs

How can I prepare for these tests?

You cannot specifically prepare for these tests because they are carefully guarded in terms of security. If these tests could be obtained by anyone, and you could practice them, we would not be able to gain a true measure of your innate abilities. That said, brain-game computer tests, like Lumosity, are the most similar to some of the tests you will be taking. There is no specific data that correlates brain-game computer tests with these neuropsychological tests, but if you practice with brain-games you might perform better because you will be engaging your brain in a similar manner.   You can also prepare for these tests by making sure you feel well-rested, nourished, and calm, when you arrive.

 

I only take a normal dose of a medication to help with my mood, why am I being required to go through all this?

As recently as 5 years ago, if a pilot had ever had a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, he could not receive a medical certificate –period. The FAA has come to recognize that mild cases of mood conditions will usually not preclude a pilot from being stable and safe. Thus, the FAA now allows the pilot the opportunity to show that he indeed is safe and stable, but only if he can demonstrate this to a qualified psychologist.

 

It seems like all the FAA does is put up road blocks and turn people down. Is this true? It is true that the burden of proof is on the pilot, when he appropriately reports a usually disqualifying condition. Again, you must remember that the FAA has become more lenient in recent years, but only if and when they feel confident that the pilot is safe, as reported by several clinicians (your AME, psychologist, psychiatrist).

 

I am required to do this evaluation because I had a DUI. Will you just be evaluating my substance usage?

No. Because you had this incident the FAA requires an evaluation which is comprehensive and takes a look at the total mental fitness of a pilot.   This makes sense because a pilot can have a DUI for a number of reasons, including a single one-time error in judgment, chronic substance use, or emotional instability.

 

How will you determine whether I pass or fail this evaluation?  

The FAA makes the final decision on whether you pass or fail. Once the report is completed and sent in to the FAA they have reviewers who read the report and make the determination whether or not to issue the medical certificate. My job is to present a comprehensive picture of the cognitive and mental health of the pilot, so the FAA reviewer can make that determination based on all the evidence.

 

It seems like the FAA likes to turn people down and create roadblocks. Is this true?

The approval rate for all pilots who submit all the required paperwork is actually 90 percent. In other words, the vast majority of pilots who go through all the required testing, will be approved. But the burden of showing your mental and physical fitness is on you, since having the right to fly is a privilege, not a right.

 

Will my health insurance cover the cost of this Neuropsychological or Psychological Testing?  

It may be possible to find a neuropsychologist who is in your insurance network and able to do some of the testing. The problem with this approach is twofold: this assessment is not ‘medically necessary’ and therefore does not meet the insurance company’s standards for requirement of coverage, and two, it is essential to use an evaluator who has been specifically trained by the FAA conduct the evaluation. If you do not use an FAA trained evaluator, he/she will not be familiar with the specific detailed standards and norms to make the review of your evaluation go smoothly. Thus, if your medical certificate is important to you, you ought to go work with a specialist who is both competent to administer neuropsychological testing AND specifically trained by the FAA.

 

Are there certain mental health conditions which are entirely disallowed by the FAA?  

Yes, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe major depression, and ADHD.   ADHD is a condition which some people outgrow, and sometimes it was diagnosed incorrectly. Thus, a comprehensive re-evaluation such as this one can determine whether you will meet specifications for the FAA for a special medical issuance.

 

How did you become interested in conducting pilot evaluations?

I have been married to a pilot for 25 years, and have a few hundred hours ‘in the right seat’ from his years of flight training. He is now a commercial airline pilot and I supported him from his private pilot certificate up through his ATP. I understand how essential the medical certificate is to a pilot’s career and well-being.

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