FAA Reminds Pilots To Medicate With Care


As part of its Fly Safe campaign aimed at general aviation pilots, the FAA on Tuesday posted information and links about the effect of drugs on flying skills — including prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as illegal drugs. A 2011 study by the FAA found that 42 percent of toxicology reports from pilots who died in crashes showed the presence of some kind of drug or medication. Most of those drugs were not illegal, and the most common ones were antihistamines. While the NTSB seldom cites these drugs as a causal factor in fatal crashes, the FAA says pilots should be aware that even common medicines — and the interaction of multiple drugs — can impair performance.

The FAA said pilots should assume that any drug that warns against operating machinery or motor vehicles, or performing tasks that require alertness, will impair their ability to fly, even in simple aircraft like a glider or a hot-air balloon. Also, prescription drugs may impair pilot capabilities, and doctors may not emphasize this to a patient, especially if the doctor is unaware you are a pilot. Medications taken in combination can cause side effects that may not be expected. Pilots should consult their Aviation Medical Examiner or a Regional Flight Surgeon if they have any questions about the safety of their medications, the FAA said. They also should read labels and be sure to let their doctors know they fly. More information, advice, and links are posted at the FAA website.