Alcohol and Medication

All pilots should be aware that their performance may be affected by alcohol, medication or illicit drugs. Legislation precludes the consumption of alcohol or the use of illicit drugs by flight crews when working.

Alcohol

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, dulling the senses and increasing mental and physical reaction times. It is known that even a small amount of alcohol leads to a decline in an individual’s performance and causes their judgement (i.e. ability to gauge their performance) to be hindered.

Alcohol is removed from the blood at a fixed rate and this cannot be speeded up in any way (e.g. by drinking strong coffee). In fact, sleeping after drinking alcohol can slow down the removal process, as the body’s metabolic systems are slower.

The affects of alcohol can be made considerably worse if the individual is fatigued, ill or using medication.

Medication

Any medication, no matter how common, can possibly have direct effects or side effects that may impair performance. “Medication” can be regarded as any over-the counter or prescribed drug used for therapeutic purposes.

Flight Crew are advised to seek up-to-date advice from their Authority concerning which medication is permissible, since the details change from time to time.

Workload Management

Workload management demands clear prioritisation of primary and secondary operational tasks. Based on sound planning, tasks should be distributed appropriately among the crew. Signs of stress and fatigue should be communicated and taken into account. Available external and internal resources (including automation) should be used to accomplish timely task completion.

Examples of poor practice:

  • Flying ‘solo’, in multi-pilot aircraft, without other crew members involved
  • Allowing secondary operational tasks to interfere with primary flight duties
  • Inadequate workload planning
  • Ignoring signs of stress and fatigue

Examples of good practice:

  • Distributes tasks among the crew, checks and corrects appropriately
  • Secondary operational tasks are prioritised to retain sufficient resources for primary flight duties
  • Allocates enough time to complete tasks