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Drunk pilot: Fly at your own risk

Pressured, taxing, risky and hectic, a pilot’s lifestyle is anything but relaxed or easygoing. Leading a life that an average Joe might find hard to cope with, the airline pilots have an incredible amount of responsibility on their shoulders accompanied by the daily grind of shuttling from one city to another. While some gradually adapt to the lifestyle and handle the pressure gracefully, others become overwhelmed and struggle with stress and substance abuse problems.

In January 2018, moments before the departure of a British Airways flight, the police received a call from the cabin crew who claimed to smell alcohol on the pilot’s breath. Before the 300-passenger Boeing 777 flight 2063 due to depart from Gatwick to Mauritius could take-off, the police led the pilot away. While the aircraft remained at the gate until the airline arranged for a replacement pilot, the passengers were left dumbstruck at the tragedy that might have befallen if the drunk pilot was allowed to operate the flight.

Pilots are just like other people; they all have shortcomings. Abuse of alcohol and drugs among airline pilots can be attributed to erratic flight schedules due to weather conditions, lengthy flights and job-related stress. Becoming an aircraft pilot can be a very demanding profession for some as it demands intense focus, clarity of mind, good physical health and days away from home. Though intake of moderate levels of alcohol may relax one’s stressed-out nerves, too much of it, whether flying or not, can be quite dangerous. Alcohol is a central nervous depressant (CNS) that can impair the user’s judgment and lead to risk-taking behavior like accidents, fights and injuries.

How much is too much?

While alcohol testing varies by country and a pilot’s alcohol limit varies depending on where the flight departs from and where it lands, in the U.S., use of drugs and alcohol is regulated by Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.17. The federal aviation administration (FAA) emphasizes on total avoidance of alcohol while planning or accomplishing a flight. As per the regulation, no pilot can operate an aircraft with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.04 percent or greater, within eight hours of consuming alcohol and while using any drug that may adversely affect the safety of the pilot and the passengers.

Alcohol and flying is a dangerous mix

In a job that requires high levels of concentration, knowledge, skills and quick decision-making during emergency situations, even a small amount of alcohol in the blood can have a significant effect on a pilot’s brain and motor skills. Alcohol can impair one’s reaction time and too much of it can lead to double vision and difficulty in focusing. The problem is aggravated by the environmental factors of altitude and low humidity inside the aircraft along with fatigue, sleep deprivation, bad mood or lack of food intake by pilots.

If left unchecked, occasional drinking can rapidly transform into dependence and addiction. For pilots dealing with substance abuse, an early treatment is the best option possible. Fear of loss of job, embarrassment or a false sense of ‘being under control’ might force some to never acknowledge that they have problematic drinking habit. An effective recovery from alcohol demands user’s wholehearted participation in a structured program at a professional rehab center that combines detox with therapy or counseling sessions.

Recovery is possible

Addiction may be a complex disease but recovery is definitely possible. A comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction may include medicine-assisted detox, psychotherapy or counseling sessions under professional care in a safe and comfortable environment.

If you know someone battling an addiction to alcohol, it’s time to get them professional help. At the 24/7 Recovery Helpline, we can help you or your loved one find the most suitable treatment options at a top-notch inpatient alcohol detox center near you. Take your first step towards recovery by calling us at our 24/7 helpline (855) 441-4405 or chatting online with experts and get access to the finest inpatient alcohol rehab centers.

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