Air Drugs

NTSB: Drug use among general aviation pilots increasing

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Washington – The number of pilots involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for potentially impairing drugs has nearly doubled in a 23-year span, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The number increased from about 11 percent to nearly 23 percent between 1990 and 2012, based on toxicology results of more than 6,500 pilots who died in aircraft crashes – almost all in general aviation. The most prevalent drug found was diphenhydramine – an antihistamine and sleep aid used to treat allergies and colds – which can cause fatigue, according to the Sept. 9 report.

Illegal drug use among pilots who died in crashes increased to about 4 percent in 2012, up from 2.4 percent in the 1990s, mainly due to the growing use of marijuana, according to the report.

Although some of the pilots who died in large airline crashes had used potentially impairing drugs, none had recently taken illegal drugs.

Researchers said in a press release that it is uncertain if more pilots are flying impaired. The rate of pilot impairment that NTSB cited as a cause or contributing factor in fatal incidents (3 percent) remained steady during the years studied.