March 12, 2004
The Pennsylvania legislature this week passed a "flying while impaired" law, joining 47 other states that have laws against drinking and flying. That was in response to the January drunken, erratic flight of a Pennsylvania pilot through Philadelphia's Class B airspace and near a nuclear power plant. Gov. Edward Rendell is expected to sign it.
"We absolutely condemn flying while impaired," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, "but it's also important to note that as a group, pilots are scrupulous about not mixing alcohol and flying."
In fact, Air Safety Foundation statistics show that alcohol has been a factor in only 0.2 percent of general aviation accidents in the past five years.
GA pilots take very seriously FAR 91.17(a), which says, "No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft: Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage; while under the influence of alcohol; while using any drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety; or while having .04 percent by weight or more alcohol in the blood."
"While alcohol isn't much of a problem, pilots should remember that there are plenty of legal drugs that can affect their ability to fly safely," said Landsberg. "Particularly now that we're in the cold and flu season, many over-the-counter drugs can affect judgment and reaction time. And some cold remedies contain a pretty high dose of alcohol."
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