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NBAA, Others Join With FAA to Warn Pilots of Potential Impairment From Common Medications

July 18, 2013

Citing a lack of awareness among general aviation pilots regarding possible impairment from common prescription and over-the-counter medications, NBAA joined with other aviation groups and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in an open letter to pilots that includes guidelines they should use to determine whether they are fit to fly.

Industry and government both share concerns that some general aviation pilots are taking impairing medications while operating aircraft without fully understanding their adverse effects," read the letter signed by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, and leaders of 10 other aviation groups.

In an accompanying fact sheet, the FAA noted the "ubiquitous presence of sedating antihistamines" in many medicines that often significantly impair cognitive skills, including the pilot’s ability to recognize when his or her faculties have degraded.

"Further, we are concerned that pilots may not be afforded the opportunities to discuss the side effects of prescription medications with fellow airmen and their treating doctors,” the letter added.

Read the letter. (PDF)

To combat this issue, pilots are encouraged to:

  • Educate themselves, including thoroughly reading all medication labels and consulting with their doctor, about any potential side effects from medications they are taking
  • Allow five maximal dosing intervals to pass after discontinuing the impairing medication before flying
  • Practice the "IM SAFE" checklist to ensure they are not impaired by illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue or emotion prior to every flight
  • Consult their FAA medical examiner or aviation support organization for additional guidance on determining when it is safe to resume flying

Doug Carr, NBAA vice president of safety, security, operations & regulation, noted it is especially important for business aviation pilots to be cognizant of possible impairment from any medications they may be using.

“Complete awareness of any possible debilitating effects is vital to ensuring safe operations, particularly in light of these pilots’ often fast-paced and irregular schedules," Carr said.

In addition to the FAA and NBAA, the letter was also signed by Peter Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Paula Derks, Aircraft Electronics Association; Craig Fuller, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Thomas Hendricks, National Air Transportation Association; Robert Meder, National Association of Flight Instructors; Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association; Ed Scott, United States Parachute Association; Doug Stewart, Society of Aviation Flight Educators; Thomas Turner, American Bonanza Society; and Matt Zuccaro, Helicopter Association International.