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Alcoholism in the travel industry can kill you or someone you love. Transportation accidents involving alcohol account for over 1,795 fatal occupational injuries in 2018. While regulated, not everyone in a safety-sensitive transportation position can be tested for alcohol before each shift.

By the Numbers: Alcohol-Related Deaths in the Travel Industry

  • 15% of safety-sensitive employees tested positive for alcohol post-accident in 2018. This include airline pilots, armed transit security personnel, ferryboat captains, maintenance workers and vehicle mechanics, and transit bus and subway operators. Safety-sensitive employees account for 8-million jobs in the United States. Those jobs are regulated by U.S. Department of Transportations Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC).
  • Over 22.9% (154) of fatal recreational boating accidents involve alcohol during 2018.
  • 7% of pilot fatalities tested positive for alcohol between 2004 and 2018.

Alcoholism and Pilots

Commercial airline travel is recognized as safe transportation. Travelers are comfortable boarding the plane, knowing they are in the capable hands of a professional pilot. A pilot who has undergone rigorous testing to make sure his ability to fly the plane.

Regardless of ability to fly the plane, pilots are susceptible to addictions just like any other professional. Perhaps more so because the daily strain of responsibility for other’s lives. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a study of pilot deaths from 2004-2018. They found over 7% of pilot fatalities involved alcohol above the FAA limit of 0.04 g/dL.

  • 92 of 1353 pilots tested positive for alcohol following a fatal accident.
  • 22 of 397 commercial pilots tested positive for alcohol following a fatal accident.
  • 50 of 641 private pilots tested positive for alcohol following a fatal accident.
  • 12 of 181 first-class medical pilots tested positive for alcohol following a fatal accident.
  • 26 of 427 second-class medical pilots tested positive for alcohol following a fatal accident.
  • 50 of 672 third-class medical pilots tested positive for alcohol following a fatal accident.

Effects of Alcohol on a Pilot

People use alcohol to relax and remove inhibitions. Some use alcohol to anesthetize their emotions after traumatic experiences. This practice is not recommended for anyone, and it can have devastating impact for pilots drinking before a flight.

  • Alcohol affects the brain, eyes, and inner ear. These are crucial organs for a pilot.
  • When alcohol is consumed, the brain is impaired slowing reaction time, judgment, memory, and reasoning.
  • When alcohol impaired, the brain cannot use oxygen well. Add to this an increase in pressure due to altitude and it’s difficult to stay conscious.
  • Double vision may occur.
  • When the inner ear is affected, dizziness and difficulty hearing become a problem.

These negative effects can be magnified if the pilot is also sleep deprived, using medication, flying at night or in bad weather.

FAA Recommendations for Pilots and Alcohol

While the FAA recommends pilots do not drink for 24 hours before a flight, they have general guidelines for those who drink.

  1. Allow at least 8 hours from “bottle to throttle”. Do not fly while under the influence of alcohol.
  2. It is good practice to wait 24 hours after drinking to fly as alcohol can increase sensitivity to light.
  3. Even waiting 8 hours does not guarantee you are in top physical condition. Hangovers, headaches, and other symptoms can affect flying.
  4. Use good judgment. It is better to delay or cancel a flight than risk your life and those of your passengers.

Help for Alcoholism

If you or another pilot is suffering from alcoholism, seek help now. Your life and those of your passengers is at stake. Call Aion Recovery at 888-811-2879 for a confidential discussion of treatment options.

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