AOPA: NTSB Pilot Drug Study 'Incomplete'

Group says many drug-related unknowns remain.

NTSB Pilot Drug Study

NTSB Pilot Drug Study

AOPA says a study released by the National Transportation Safety Board this week on pilot drug use is "incomplete and its conclusions should be regarded with caution."

The study of more than 6,600 cases reviewed toxicology tests performed on pilots killed in aviation accidents from 1990 through 2012. In it the NTSB 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.

But AOPA points out there are only a handful of accidents each year in which medical or drug impairment is cited as a factor. The NTSB also concedes that some of the increased prescription drug use could simply be due to the aging U.S. population.

"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," AOPA President Mark Baker said, according to the association's website. "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 aviation medical examiners. AOPA, however, notes that it maintains a medications database that contains the trade and generic names of drugs the FAA allows and prohibits.

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