Title

Pilot Certification, Age of Pilot, and Drug Use in Fatal Civil Aviation Accidents

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-2017

Abstract

Introduction: This study examined the association between mean age of pilot, pilot license, pilot medical certificate and drug use trends in pilots fatally injured in aircraft accidents. The prevalence of prescription drugs, OTC drugs, controlled drugs and drugs that may be potentially impairing was also examined. METHODS: This study was a descriptive observational study in which the NTSB Aviation Accident Database was searched from the period beginning January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014. RESULTS: During the study period a total of 706 accidents involving 711 fatalities were investigated by the NTSB. This study included 633 of these accidents, involving 646 fatalities. Of these pilots, 42.1% had drugs in their biological samples. The prevalence of prescription drugs, controlled drugs, OTC drugs, opioids, and potentially impairing drugs in the fatally injured pilot population over the study period was 28.9%, 15.0%, 20.1%, 5.1%, and 25.5%, respectively. Pilots with any drugs in their samples were significantly older than those without drugs. Medical certificate held was associated with drug use; pilots who held third class certificates had the highest prevalence at 54.1%. Pilot license was not associated with drug use. In 3.8% of the accidents, drugs were a contributing factor in the cause. DISCUSSION: Despite current FAA medical regulations, potentially impairing drugs are frequently found in biological samples of fatally injured pilots in the U.S. More education of airmen by aviation medical examiners is needed on the safety of drug use.

DOI

10.3357/AMHP.4813.2017

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