New VDRP policy for 1st Time Drug and Alcohol PILOT Violators

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FAA Amends Prompt Settlement Policy for Pilots Who are First-Time Violators of Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations-Inadvertent No Longer Relevant

FAA has good record –HIMS

Old VDRP required an “inadvertent” drug/alcohol test

New policy provides a path to rehabilitation and return to cockpit

The FAA has been rather progressive in dealing with Pilot Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation issues [curiously, there is NO mention that the old or new policies apply to flight attendants, mechanics or other safety-related personnel can avail themselves of this new policy]. CBS previously lauded the ALPA/FAA Human Intervention Motivation Study which relied on peers to identify pilots with issues.





Then The FAA issued a new Advisory Circular (AC 120-117) which applied the Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program  for violations of the drug and alcohol testing regulations contained in 14 CFR Part 120. In order to qualify under several conditions must be met ,all but one similar to the new program EXCEPT:


The violation must be inadvertent. The apparent violation was the result of inattention and did not result from a purposeful choice.

In all of the VDRP cases, the determination of what constitutes “inadvertent” or not has been a major decisional factor. [Some skeptics have counseled against using the VDRP because of the subjectivity of “intent.”] Clearly, that judgment  becomes extraordinarily difficult when applied to an individual who has an addiction or dependency.

The new Prompt Settlement Policy applies to commercial pilots, who have committed one of the below DOT/FAA violations and permits them to elect to participate in this prompt settlement policy with the FAA:

  • Verified positive drug result or alcohol result with a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or greater on any of the following test types:


Reasonable Cause/Reasonable Suspicion


  • Refusals to submit to the following test types:

Pre-Employment Drug & Alcohol

Random Drug & Alcohol

Reasonable Cause/Reasonable Suspicion

  • Post-Accident Drug & Alcohol
  • Pre-duty alcohol misuse violations
  • Drug or alcohol violations of 14 CFR § 91.17(a)(1)-(4)





The new process is most attractive because (a) it provides an inducement for pilots so afflicted to get out of the cockpit, reduce the risk of an impaired and receive treatment and (b) pilots, who participate in this policy and who have established qualifications are expected to more quickly assume commercial flight crewmember duties.

Like the VDRP, there are attendant notices and procedures to which the pilot must carefully in order to be considered for prompt settlement. There is a legal review, but without the “inadvertent” test, it is primarily ministerial.

“If you are preliminarily eligible to take advantage of the prompt settlement policy, a representative from the FAA’s Drug Abatement Division will notify you in writing. Upon notification, you will have 10 days of receipt of your notification to inform the Drug Abatement Division at of your intent to participate. Failure to notify the Drug Abatement Division within 10 days will preclude you from participation. Once the “agreement” is executed, there will be a step of trust between the certificate holder and the FAA:

require you to immediately surrender all your certificates issued under 14 CFR parts 61 and 67;

notify you that failure to surrender these certificates will subject you to further legal enforcement action (including civil penalty); and

inform you that the FAA will not accept an application for a new part 61 airman certificate for a period of one year from the date of your emergency order of revocation.

The FAA policy, as specified in both the website and AC-120-117 . does not explicitly explain the remedial action because the “treatment” must be designed by the pilot’s employer and the employee:

“…employer or contractor[1] has developed or is developing a comprehensive fix and schedule of implementation satisfactory to the FAA. The comprehensive fix includes a follow-up self-audit to ensure that the action taken corrects the noncompliance. This self-audit is in addition to any audits the FAA conducts.”

Recovery is, in and of itself, unique to each individual. The voluntary surrender of the ATP requires the sort of confidence and commitment to the process as many dependency rehabilitation processes.

It will be interesting to see how many pilots take that critical step.



[1] Contractor. A contractor is an individual or company that performs a safetysensitive function by contract for an employer or another contractor. Contractor includes a part 145 repair station that has an FAA drug and alcohol testing program.


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