I'm in my early thirties and a recovered addict with a former diagnosis for bipolar disorder with psychotic features. However, I've been sober for five years, off all medications for four, and completed several years of therapy. I have done everything within my power to turn my life around, and despite what is commonly believed to be the case in the medical literature, I believe that even severe mental disorders like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are curable under the right conditions. I believe I am living proof of that.

I used to be a pre-med student, but have recently started looking into studying commercial aviation. However, according to the FAA's website, I suffer from an incurable and disqualifying medical condition:

"Certain medical conditions such as a psychosis, bipolar disorder and severe personality disorder automatically disqualify a pilot from obtaining an FAA medical certificate and prohibit them from flying. However, many pilots have conditions that are treatable."

I know I will never have another psychotic episode, but, unfortunately, that assertation is what you would call "unfalsifiable" in scientific terms.

Is this FAA policy legal under the ADA? I'm a strong person with unwavering convictions. I don't let the opinions of others and the stigma associated with mental illness sway me. With that said, I'm not going to lie. Learning about this policy hurt. It still hurts.

  • After further research, I read that all medical clearances for bipolar disorder are automatically denied or deferred. I still don't know what that deferral process entails and how likely an appeal is to succeed.

Ironically, another profession that deals with the safety of others on a regular basis, and from which the FAA draws upon to make medical clearance decisions, does allow for people with a history of bipolar disorder to enroll in its ranks. According to this article: https://www.statnews.com/2017/10/16/doctors-mental-health-licenses/, there are physicians with a history of mental illnes working in the U.S. and, "Revoking licensure or otherwise preventing a physician from working due to mental disorders is actually illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act."

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    It isn't "impossible" to get a Class-2 or Class-1 medical, but it would be very difficult, expensive, and involved. Your best bet is to talk to an AME and see what the process would involve. The problem is that the FAA is trying to avoid another Germanwings crash. The process you need to go through is called a "special issuance" and will involve quite a bit of testing, most of which will be at your expense. So while psychosis is an "out-of-the-box" denial, it isn't impossible to be approved though. – Ron Beyer Feb 14 at 4:40
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    Thank you. I understand it's a difficult subject with significant and potentially life-changing ramifications. With that said, I'm trying to create a future for myself here. I want to get married, have kids, and study a profession I can enjoy and support them with. – user27343 Feb 15 at 0:58

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