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Free Content Toxicological Findings in Fatally Injured Pilots of 979 Amateur-Built Aircraft Accidents

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Chaturvedi AK, Craft KJ, Hickerson JS, Rogers PB, Soper JW. Toxicological findings in fatally injured pilots of 979 amateur-built aircraft accidents. Aviat Space Environ Med 2013; 84:134–41.

Background: Specimens from aviation accident pilot fatalities are submitted to the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) for toxicological analyses. Trends of fatal amateur-built aircraft accidents and toxicological findings in the associated pilot fatalities have not been examined. Methods: Fatal amateur-built aircraft accidents that occurred during 1990–2009 were evaluated by retrieving information from the CAMI toxicology database. Probable cause/factor in the amateur-built aircraft mishaps were obtained from the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB’s) aviation accident database. Results: Of 6309 fatal aviation accidents from which CAMI received postmortem samples, 979 (16%) were related to amateur-built aircraft. There was a decreasing trend in non-amateur-built aircraft accidents, but an increasing trend in amateur-built aircraft accidents. In the 979 accidents, 392 pilots (40%) were positive for ethanol and/or drugs. In these 392 accidents also, the review showed a decreasing trend with non-amateur-built aircraft and an increasing trend with amateur-built aircraft. Percentages of pilots with prescription drugs were 26% for amateur-built aircraft, 16% for non-amateur-built aircraft, and 18% for all aircraft. Ethanol/drug use and medical condition were determined to be a cause/factor in 42 (11%) of the 385 ethanol/drug-positive amateur-built aircraft accidents investigated by the NTSB. Discussion: Drugs found in the pilots were consistent with commonly used medications in the general population. The contributory role of mechanical malfunction of home-built aircraft cannot be ruled out in the observed increasing trends in their accidents, with or without ethanol and/or drugs. Regardless, the increasing trends of such accidents are of significant concern.

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Keywords: amateur-built aircraft accidents; civil aviation accident investigation; ethanol and drugs; pilot fatalities; toxicology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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