Sept. 9, 2014
Contact: Steve Hedges
AOPA Cautions Findings Are Incomplete and Inconclusive
FREDERICK, MD – A new study on pilot drug use released by the National Transportation Safety Board today is incomplete and its conclusions should be regarded with caution, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) said Tuesday.
The study of more than 6,600 cases reviewed toxicology tests performed on pilots killed in aviation accidents from 1990 through 2012. The study concluded that drug use of all types, including over the counter and prescription medications, is on the rise among pilots and that the risk of impairment from drugs is also increasing.
Despite the apparent increase in drug use among pilots, the study noted that there has not been a corresponding increase in the proportion of accidents in which the NTSB determined that impairment was a contributing factor. In fact, there are only a handful of accidents each year in which medical or drug impairment is cited as a contributing factor. The study also noted that some portion of the increased level of drug use could be attributable to the fact that the pilot population, like the U.S. population, is aging.
“There are just far too many gaps and unknowns in this study for us to be able to draw any meaningful conclusions about aviation safety,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “Overall the number of general aviation accidents has declined significantly over the past decade, and continuing that trend should be our focus. What pilots really need is good information about how to determine their fitness to fly, and we are working with medical experts and others in the aviation community to give them better educational and decision making tools.”
In the report, the NTSB recommended that the FAA provide a list of drugs that are allowed and disallowed. Currently, the agency only provides such information to medical examiners and does not make it available for use by pilots.
It is also impossible to tell how drug use among pilots compares to drug use in other forms of transportation since only aviation has such strict toxicology testing standards and maintains a robust database, Baker noted.
Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. AOPA is the world’s largest aviation member association, with representatives based in Frederick, Md., Washington, D.C., and seven regions across the United States. AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media. To learn more, visit www.aopa.org.
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