In Ready For Takeoff Podcast Episode 175 we discussed airline drug testing, and now we're going to learn about WHY airline employees are tested for drugs.
An airline accident in 1988 was a major factor in requiring drug testing for pilots. Trans Colorado Airlines flight 2286 crashed during an approach to Durango, Colorado, and investigators learned that the captain had ingested cocaine prior to the flight. In the accident report the Safety Board stated "The NTSB believes that reasonable cause testing (triggered by any of a wide range of potentially safety-related errors), combined with effective management supervision of employees, post-accident/incident testing, pre-employment testing, periodic (medical) testing, and competent drug/alcohol education and treatment, are essential components of an effective anti-drug/alcohol abuse program."
From Test Country:
When President Ronald Reagan signed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to create an employee drug testing program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) responded by developing a comprehensive program and cascading it down to all DOT administrations, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to cover pilots and air traffic controllers. Today, drug screening is done for most occupations related to the transport and aviation industry from mechanics to baggage handlers.
Extensive studies indicate that drug use is actually uncommon among pilots, but because of the high level of performance needed for flight, drug use in aviation is closely monitored.
On top of the FAA regulations, most airlines implement their own drug abuse policies. Under these policies, employees with substance abuse violations are removed from safety-sensitive operations and given the choice to go on a treatment program after which they are allowed back to full duty. A second violation will result in disciplinary action or termination.
Background Screening & Drug Testing in Aviation and Airline Companies
Under Section 120 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, employers shall conduct drug testing in accordance with the DOT’s “Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug Testing Programs” as follows:
Pre-employment Drug Testing
No employer may hire any person for a safety-sensitive function or transfer any person from a non-safety sensitive function to a safety-sensitive function without having first conducted a pre-employment drug test and have received a negative result for the same. This rule applies to transfers if more than 180 days have elapsed from the time of the original hiring/pre-employment drug test.
The substances to be tested for are:
A DOT 10 Panel Drug Test can be conducted in a laboratory setting ensuring all qualifications are met under The Department of Transportation. Corporate laboratory drug testing is best used while screening candidates for employment. After employment, however, instant drug test kits can be useful tools.
Random drug testing
This test shall be done on 50% of covered employees selected at random and without warning.
Post-accident/post-incident drug testing
This test is to be done on an employee whose performance contributed to an accident, no later than 32 hours after the accident
Reasonable-cause drug testing
If it is reasonably suspected that an employee in a security and safety-sensitive function used a prohibited substance as demonstrated by physical, behavioral and performance indicators.
Return to duty drug testing
This test is given to an employee after previously testing positive or refusing to submit to testing (and was therefore removed from work) before being allowed back to work.
Follow-up drug testing
This test is for employees who have previously passed a return-to-duty test. Most DOT programs require 6 follow-up tests the first year from returning to duty, to continue for up to 5 years.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Rules
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a drug and alcohol testing program to make sure that the company provides a safe and healthy environment for both employees and those they serve. The administration follows The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) drug and alcohol testing policy. Both agencies work together to define and implement the coverage of the substance abuse program.
Here are some of the most common questions and answers about DOT’s drug and alcohol testing rules for FAA:
Who are covered by the DOT – FAA drug and alcohol testing rules?
According to DOT, all employees who perform safety-sensitive functions are subject to employee drug testing. These are:
When are covered employees tested?
As per DOT, covered employees are tested during pre-employment and during random testing. Employees are also subject to testing during circumstances like post-accident, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty, and follow-up testing.
What are drug and alcohol prohibitions as per DOT testing rules?
DOT drug testing rules require FAA employers to test their employees for the following drugs: Marijuana, Opiates, PCP, Cocaine, and Amphetamines.
For DOT Alcohol Testing, the prohibited alcohol concentration for FAA employees is 0.04% or greater. Instant tests can monitor the Breath Alcohol Concentration of drivers, immediately. Employees who are caught violating these prohibitions must be immediately removed from performing safety-sensitive functions until management decides on their applicable consequences.
Who performs the drug and alcohol testing procedures?
For drug testing, a DOT urinalysis procedure must be followed. Only certified collectors are allowed to perform the collection of urine samples from employees. They are trained to perform the testing procedure that meets DOT’s drug testing requirements, making sure that all samples reach the laboratory without signs of tampering.
For DOT alcohol screening, only a screening test technician (STT) and breath alcohol technician (BAT) are allowed to perform the alcohol test. DOT Alcohol Testing requires 2 tests: a screening and confirmation test. STTs are only allowed to perform screening tests, while BATs are allowed to perform both tests. They are trained to guarantee accurate test results.
FAA Random Drug Testing Requirements for Pilots
Like most drivers who drive vehicles that require special education and certification, pilots too are subject to the regulations of the DOT Alcohol Testing and Drug Testing Policy. These regulations are designed to maintain the safety of all passengers and aircraft crew who depend on their pilot to be able to transport them from one location to another without incident.
This means that the pilot must be able to be on guard at all times for the varying situations that could occur during the course of taking off, flying and landing the airplane under their control. A pilot more than any other major transportation operator needs to have a clear mind and an ability to focus to maintain the safety and well-being of those he transports. These abilities are delayed, limited or severely impaired by the abuse of illegal substances.
The FAA random drug testing program (like other DOT-regulated substance abuse programs) also offers those with substance abuse problems opportunities to report their addiction to a counselor so that they may pursue treatment without facing censure from their employer.
Education about substance abuse and prevention is also an integral part of the drug testing process as they help employees to better understand the role that drugs take on in their lives. If these pilots feel that they work in an environment that is willing to help them succeed and remove the negative effects of substance abuse from their work and public lives they’ll be much more invested in maintaining the requirements.
Steven Giordano is an entrepreneur and former airline pilot with over 20 years of experience in aircraft flight operations, logistics, air-carrier management, aircraft trading, and aircraft modification. Giordano is a co-founder and Managing Director of Jet Test & Transport as well as the non-profit NGO the Humanitarian Lift Project (HLP).
Steven’s aviation experience is rooted in aircraft flight operations and operations management. After attending the Arizona State University and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and serving in the USMC Reserve, Giordano embarked on a career as a commercial airline pilot. He has held various flight operations positions as a line pilot with four airlines including 10 years as a Captain with Allegiant Air. He holds an FAA Airline Transport Pilot Certificate with Pilot-in-command type ratings on the B737, B757, 767, B777, A320, A330, A340, DC-9/MD-80, CE500, and DHC-8. Giordano has logged over 18,000 flight hours operating worldwide both under contract privately and with scheduled airlines.
In 2006, Giordano cofounded Jet Test and Transport, an aircraft crew leasing and ops logistics provider to the Airline and Aircraft Leasing Industry, where he conducts flight operations while implementing business development strategies and initiatives, expanding the company's scope of capabilities, expanding the customer base, and forging alliances within the industry. Giordano also serves as the Director of JTOMS, a subsidiary of Jet Test which establishes and operates special ops oriented AOCs to serve a variety of special flight operations missions globally. In 2014 Giordano founded 30 West Inc. 30 West specialized in the trading of mid-life aircraft assets with a concentration on passenger-to-freighter conversions. Giordano also co-founded, and sits on the BOD for the Humanitarian Lift Project; a 501(c)3 aviation oriented non-profit that provides free/at-cost airlift to support relief operations worldwide.
Giordano resides in Southern NJ with his wife and 4 sons. Living and breathing aviation 24/7, Giordano owns and operates an Aerostar 600 and is active in General Aviation.
LIMON, Colo. (KDVR) — The sign that greets you on the edge of this Eastern Plains town promises that Limon is “open for business.” That includes a small petroleum company on the west edge of town, now in its 74th year, with the same boss today as the day the business started.
Don Morrison is 95 years old. But you’ll still find him behind his desk at D-J Petroleum, Inc., running the company as president. It’s the kind of leadership he may have first learned way back in World War II, where he was the nose gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, carrying out bombing missions over Germany. He was part of the United States Army Air Corps 447th Bombardment Group.
“We flew into Brandenburg, Germany toward the end of the war, and we were just bombarded from every direction. I don’t know how we ever got out of there,” Morrison told FOX31. He was just a teenager when he left Limon to serve his country.
When he returned, he started his petroleum company. A few years later, he started a life with his wife Helen. They’ve been married 70 years.
“And we’ve just had a very happy marriage,” Helen Morrison told FOX31.
Most everyone in this town of 2,000 knows Don, and many know about his heroics during World War II. Last year, one of Morrison’s employees decided to pay tribute to him. They reached out to a group of local artists called “Some Girls and a Mural,” and commissioned a painting on one of D-J Petroleum’s large white fuel tanks on the edge of town.
“(The employee) approached us when we were working on another mural, and asked us to do a surprise mural for Don, and he was telling us the story of Don’s mission, and it just, immediately we gravitated toward it and we thought this would be a fun one to bring alive. And just share a piece of his history with the community,” said Kayla Ravenkamp, one of the artists who completed the painting.
Now, every time you drive into town, you see that painting of a cloudy sky over Germany, and a fleet of B-17 aircraft helping save the day. The mural spells out Morrison’s name and dates of service.
To this town, Don has always been a hero. To his wife, same thing.
“And I’m proud of his career, he’s been very successful,” said Helen Morrison.
Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV is Deputy Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command and Deputy Commander, Air Forces Strategic-Air, U.S. Strategic Command, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. AFGSC provides strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support to USSTRATCOM and other geographic combatant commands. The command comprises more than 33,700 professionals operating at two numbered air forces; 11 active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve wings, the Joint Global Strike Operations Center and the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Center. Weapons systems assigned to AFGSC include all U.S. Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and bomber aircraft, UH-1N helicopters, E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft and the U.S. Air Force NC3 weapons system.
The command organizes, trains, equips and maintains combat-ready forces that provide strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support to USSTRATCOM and other geographic combatant commands. The command is comprised of more than 33,700 professionals operating at two Numbered Air Forces and 11 active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve wings. Weapons systems assigned to the command include Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, UH-1N helicopters, the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft and the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems.
General Tibbets received his commission through the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1989. Following graduation, he served in a variety of operational assignments as a B-1 pilot, and subsequently as a B-2 pilot. The general has commanded at the squadron and wing levels, and flew combat missions in support of operations in Southwest Asia, the Balkans and Afghanistan. His staff assignments include Executive Officer to the Commander, Eighth Air Force, Chief of the Nuclear and CBRN Defense Policy Branch at NATO Headquarters, Deputy Director of Operations for AFGSC and Deputy Director for Nuclear Operations at U.S. Strategic Command.
Prior to his current assignment, he served as the Commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
General Tibbets is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours.
Camila Turrieta currently works as an airline pilot with Jetblue Airways flying the Airbus 320/321. She holds a variety of FAA certifications to include an Airline Transport Certificate with Type Ratings on the Airbus 320, Boeing 737 and Embraer 170/190. She is also a Certified Flight Instructor, Aircraft Dispatcher and, Unmanned Aerial Systems Pilot.
Camila pursued her undergraduate studies at Vaughn College, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree specializing in Aircraft operations. Camila also holds a Master's Degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with specializations in Aircraft Accident Investigation and Human Factors. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree focusing on Higher Education and Adult Learning from Walden University.
Camila is an active volunteer with a variety of aviation organizations such as Women in Aviation, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), and the Latino Pilots Associations. Her work and mission within these organizations are to mentor the future leaders of the aviation industry. Camila is also a member of the Air Line Pilots Association serving as the very first Chair for the President’s Committee for Diversity & Inclusion representing over 59,000 members at 34 different airlines. Camila is also a member of the Critical Incident Response Program, the Professional Standards Committee and Pilot Peer Support Committee.
Her community service extends well beyond the flight deck, as she is also a spokesperson for organ donation throughout the United States, raising awareness on the importance of organ donation and giving the gift of life to others. Camila's efforts in her community and volunteerism have been recognized nationally, and she has been a two-time recipient of the President's Call to Service Award. This award is given to an individual who has completed over 4,000 hours of community service in their lifetime. This award was presented to her by President George W Bush and President Barack Obama.
Camila currently lives in Queens, NY with her family.
Upon completion of two tours in Iraq and leaving the military, Vernice launched VAI Consulting and Training, LLC. By applying the Zero to Breakthrough™ Success Model to her own company, Vernice produced over six-figures in revenue within the first 12 months and over a million in the first 5 years! Her passion is helping others create similar results.
As featured on Oprah Winfrey, CNN, Tavis Smiley, NPR and others, Vernice Armour’s fresh style and presentation methods have inspired hundreds of organizations and individuals.
Vernice ultimately impacts organizations and individuals with an understanding of the passion and leadership required to excel. Through her keynotes, executive and group coaching, seminars and executive retreats, Vernice conveys messages of Zero to Breakthrough™ through her unique insight and life strategy: “You HAVE permission to Engage!”
Vernice travels extensively in order to create a global movement based on the Breakthrough Mentality mindset. In order for us to change the current conditions we are going to need to think and execute differently. We are going to need leaders to step up, lead and Get Gutsy. Our society and global community needs people to take personal responsibility and accountability. We win or lose together. One Mission, One Goal, One Team™.
Her signature book, Zero to BreakthroughTM (Penguin 2011) chronicles the process she utilized to transition from beat cop to America’s First African American Female Combat Pilot. She is an internationally recognized inspirational leadership keynote speaker for premier leadership conferences and Fortune 500 companies.
Vernice has two honorary doctorates, been featured extensively in the media to include Oprah Winfrey, CNN, MSNBC and the View and is a member of the COMCAST/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council. She has also received awards as a pioneering pilot, to include her commanding role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She was the Marine Corps’ first African American Female pilot, first African American woman on the Nashville Police Department’s motorcycle squad, Camp Pendleton’s 2001 Female Athlete of the Year, two-time titleholder in Camp Pendleton’s annual Strongest Warrior Competition, and a running back for the San Diego Sunfire women’s professional football team.
Manny Montez used to watch planes fly overhead from his childhood home in Cuba, dreaming of some day becoming a pilot. When he was 13 his family immigrated to the United States with four suitcases and $50 cash, not speaking a word of English.
Ten years later Manny had learned English, become a U.S. citizen, and was a pilot in the Air Force, flying combat missions in Vietnam as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in an OV-10. Following Vietnam he instructed in the supersonic T-38, then left the service for an airline career at American Airlines. At the same time, he flew O-2A and F-100 aircraft in the Air National Guard.
During a downturn when pilots were being furloughed, Manny volunteered to take a leave of absence and flew a private B-727 based in Saudi Arabia, operating all over the world. After his return to American, he rose to B777 Captain.
After age-60 retirement, Manny continued to fly and instruct in simulators, and currently flies the Emb-300 as a contract pilot.
Erin Miller is the granddaughter of WASP WWII pilot Elaine Danforth Harmon. Erin has a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, a Master's in international studies from the University of Leeds (UK), and a B.A. in history from the University of California, San Diego. She is a licensed attorney in Maryland, where she lives with her two Shiba Inus.
Erin has become an ambassador for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II by sharing her own story of honoring her grandmother who wanted to ensure future generations learn about the history of these trailblazing pilots.
She documented her fight for WASP recognition in Final Flight Final Fight.
Shreenand Sadhale was working in India when, at age 26, he came across a Singapore Airlines advertisement for their cadet program. Singapore Airlines wold pay for the pilot training and pay the cadets a salary, and there would be a seven year commitment. Shreenand jumped at the chance. He requested the cargo route because he wanted to fly the Boeing 747, and Singapore was already phasing out the B747 in passenger operations.
He attended training in both Singapore and in Perth, Australia. His training included flights in the Lear 45. When he started flying at Singapore Airlines, he was assigned to the Boeing 777, and was flying in the right seat on passenger flights with a total of 275 hours!
He started with Singapore in 2007, and in 2012 Singapore started a low-cost operation, called Scoot. Shreenand volunteered to transition to Scoot, and was removed from the Singapore seniority list. In the process he became a Captain on the B787 and flew all over the world. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Scoot went out of business.
Shreenand also owns a Stearman aircraft in the United States.