The Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS), was conducted in the mid 1970’s to assess the need for a specialized alcohol recovery program for professional pilots. Since inception, over 4500 pilots have been successfully treated and successfully returned to their flying status.
"HIMS is specific to commercial pilots and coordinates the identification, treatment and return to the cockpit of impaired aviators. It is an industry-wide effort in which companies, pilot unions, and FAA work together to preserve careers and further air safety. " HIMS Website
Substance abuse and/or dependence is a disease and not an act of moral weakness or lack of willpower.
A pilot with this diagnosis and in this program must engage with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) who has specialized training and is approved by the FAA to evaluate and supervise HIMS cases (See the following link for an up to date list of HIMS AMEs).
HIMS AMEs serve in the role of an Independent Medical Sponsor (IMS).
A pilot may enter the HIMS program in the following ways:
- Formal intervention
- Referral from pilot managers
- DUI reports, or
The initial steps of the HIMS program are:
1. Substance Abuse Assessment
This assessment should be performed by professionals who have experience and credentials in addiction medicine and an understanding of aeromedical standards.
2. 28 day (preferably in-patient) treatment program
28 day in-patient (residential) treatment center, followed by intensive outpatient treatment (or other pre-approved (by the FAA) treatment program.
3. Establishing a peer and company sponsorship
During treatment, the pilot should establish a peer sponsor and (if possible), a company sponsor. The chief pilot is the preferred company sponsor.
4. Three month intensive out patient follow up
Typically a 3-month intensive outpatient program (IOP)
5. Heavy involvement in AA
Daily Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) attendance -“90 in 90” – 90 meetings in 90 days.
6. Establish regular aftercare
To maintain support and sober living, transitioning to a regular aftercare program once discharged from IOP. Additionally, attending weekly group meetings, and periodic one-on-one meetings with an addiction counselor.
7. Psychiatric and neuropsychological evaluations by HIMS-trained addiction specialists
Consensus should be reached by all involved parties (sponsors, P & P, IMS) that the pilot is ready to return to flying before the FAA Flight Physical is arranged.
Specifics regarding this process, click:
SPECIFICATIONS FOR PSYCHIATRIC AND NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATIONS FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE/DEPENDENCE
8. Flight Physical Examination:
The final determination for return to flying is made by the Chief Psychiatrist of the FAA.
Continued Medical Certification: (HIMS AME Checklist) and (FAA Certification Aid)
The following steps are required for continued medical certification with documentation of attendance and participation forwarded to the IMS:
- participation in weekly group meetings and periodic
- individual counseling
- peer/airline sponsorship with monthly reports to IMS
- regular AA attendance
- annual psychiatric or psychological follow-ups (HIMS trained)
- coordination and periodic visits with IMS, including random drug /alcohol testing
Duration of Monitoring:
The length of time a pilot is monitored depends on the individual situation, although a standard “minimum” is three years. Pilots who relapse, or are at high risk of relapsing, may be monitored for longer. It goes without saying that once released from SI, the pilot must maintain sobriety. Often times “graduates” from HIMS become peer sponsors for other pilots as part of their commitment to their own continued sobriety program.
Click here for more comprehensive information regarding the HIMS program,