After being hit by a car while out on a bike ride for exercise, full-time Corporate Pilot and BizJetJobs Founder Rick Koubsky was fearing for his job, and his future as a pilot. (To get caught up, read Part 1: How I Unexpectedly Lost My Airman’s Medical Certificate and Part 2: The Repercussions of Losing My Pilot’s Medical Certificate.)
Rick was dealing with a bevy of issues since his accident: headaches, sleep problems, emotions out of whack, feeling in a “fog”, eye issues / double-vision, confusion, blood in ear canal, lack of concentration. Ethically, he felt reporting his accident to the FAA was the right thing to do, as a pilot flying a plane with passengers on board, literally with their lives in his hands. Even if he hadn’t been experiencing all these symptoms, Rick wanted to avoid any safety and legal issues. He was open and honest, reporting the accident to the FAA immediately after being diagnosed with a concussion.
When he did so, he was told to “Stand Down,” or stop flying until the FAA could get back to him. Originally the FAA gave Rick 2 months to get better and have a comprehensive review to see if he could keep his medical. After 2 months of eye and speech therapy, Rick was sent to a neurologist for testing. Even though Rick passed all of the neurologist’s tests, he was then sent for an FAA neuro-cognitive exam. This exam showed his short term memory wasn’t where it should be. When Rick let the FAA know, they followed up with a letter. They were pulling his medical until he was healed. In hindsight, Rick is now certain he took the test too soon.
“Taking the test when I wasn’t ready was one of my biggest mistakes in his situation,” Rick admits. “If had to do over, I would have consulted with the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS) earlier, to help us navigate the process.” For more on AMAS, read on.
The Rollercoaster to Recovery: a Bureaucratic Mistake
After speech and eye therapy and about a year’s time, Rick took the FAA’s neuro-cognitive exam again. This time, he passed.
“I was so excited,” says Rick. “All of the therapy had made a difference. I was hopeful that I was going to be able to fly again.”
“But when I called the FAA and asked them if they could review my file, they came back with a response that made it obvious some other guy’s information was in my file. I couldn’t believe it,” Rick told us.
“After all this effort and struggle to get well, and all of the emotions I was dealing with related to potentially losing my job, which was my passion, flying, a bureaucratic mistake was putting my entire future at risk.”
We Hired an Advocate
Rick and his wife then hired the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS), a professional group that provides assistance for pilots with the FAA medical certification process.
It cost Rick close to $4,000 upfront to bring AMAS on board, an expense that was not covered by his insurance. AMAS began working directly with Rick’s health care professionals to get the information they needed, proactively took over the process as Rick’s advocate to the FAA, and gave him advice on next steps.
AMAS knew exactly how to navigate the long road ahead with the FAA. They took Rick’s 300-400 page medical folder and organized it to better illustrate exactly what the damage was, the treatment, and how doctors now saw “no problems with Rick.” AMAS also required him to take very strict tests in every area of deficit to prove to the FAA that Rick’s health was completely restored. Test results, doctor letters, therapy result write-ups, and a final First Class Medical exam showed Rick was now worthy of the medical. AMAS then generated a lengthy report and sent it to the FAA.
“Work had given me a deadline to get my First Class medical back by the end of December 2017, or they would be moving me to another department,” Rick told BizJetJobs. “After months of regularly checking in with the FAA and no ruling on my situation in sight, things hit an all time low for me. I received a call from AMAS preparing me for the worst. Their rep said that due to my history of headaches, it was possible that the FAA was not going to reinstate my medical certificate at all. My case was going to be decided by the FAA medical panel.”
This Story Has a Happy Ending
About a month later though, Rick received another call from AMAS.
“We got you your medical back,” said the representative on the phone.
“I actually screamed out loud due to sheer excitement”, says Rick.
“Looking back, all credit is due to AMAS to help me get over this hurdle. Without AMAS I would have never been able to reach that December deadline. My only regret was not hiring AMAS immediately after my accident.”
At BizJetJobs, we believe all pilots should make a plan to handle stressful situations when we’re well, before we get stressed. Injury, illness and other traumatic events can cloud our judgment. Stress causes cortisol levels to spike, raises your heart rate and raises adrenaline levels, all of which impair our ability to think. We’re all very thankful Rick had and continues to have an excellent support system in his wife, his family, his aviation industry friends, his medical team and AMAS.
“I trust that sharing my personal experience will help other pilots out there decide what to do ahead of time, and increase your odds of handing any challenging medical issues with a clear head,” says Rick.
Read the rest of our blog series here: