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HAI President Matt Zuccaro and 10 other aviation association presidents joined FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in signing a letter to pilots reminding them of the dangers of impairment from prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Analysis shows drug impairment to be a causal or contributing factor in 12 of fatal general aviation accidents over the past decade. “We are ... concerned that pilots might not be aware of the ubiquitous presence of sedating antihistamines in many over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for common allergies, coughs, colds, and sleep aids,” wrote Zuccaro and the others.

A fact sheet that accompanies the letter notes that the loss-of-control working group of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) found that 42 percent of the pilots killed in loss-of-control accidents between 2001 and 2010 were found to be positive for drugs or medications. The most common impairing drug is diphenhydramine, which is found in more than 50 OTC and prescription medications.

The letter offers four things pilots can do to reduce their risk of medication-induced impairment:

  1. Become an educated pilot and health care consumer;
  2. After using medications with impairing side effects, follow current FAA guidelines and do not fly for at least five dosing intervals;
  3. Always use the I’M SAFE personal readiness checklist; and,
  4. Use expert guidance (from your AME or aviation support group) to determine when it’s safe to resume flying after using impairing medications.

In addition to Zuccaro and Huerta, the letter is signed by: Paula Derks, Aircraft Electronics Association; Tom Turner, American Bonanza Society; Craig Fuller, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association; Pete Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Robert Meder, National Association of Flight Instructors; Tom Hendricks, National Air Transportation Association; Ed Bolen, National Business Aviation Association; Doug Stewart, Society of Aviation Flight Educators; and Ed Scott, United States Parachute Association.

They conclude the letter, saying, “Personal risk management is the responsibility of all licensed airmen. [W]e urge you to take the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of impairment when flying.” 

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