View Full Version : Alcohol, Drugs and the industry, heads in the sand

16th Dec 2003, 17:03
Hi, first post, so expecting to be flamed etc.

Why is the industry stuck with its head in the sand over drug and alcohol testing?

This year, three British Airways pilots have been dismissed publicly for breaking its alcohol rules. Another went to an industrial tribunal over an occurence last year, and the case against him was upheld.

In 2000 British Airways said it would introduce drug and alcohol testing in 2001. It hasnt happened. Its regulator hasnt required it either.

In New Zealand, three flight crew have been sacked this year for similar reasons. A flight attendant was found to be in posession of cocaine, and someone else was dealing it at an engineering base.

Drug use among crews is probably the same as in comparable age/socio-economic groupings.

Why do the unions oppose the introduction of random testing?

The regulators do little, if anything. No prosecutions have resulted in the UK. You commit the offence, get sacked, go to a new employer. No fine, nada.

The industry isnt squeeky clean.

Drugs, and alcohol abuse is available for all to see, if only you would admit it, from the regulators down.

It stinks, and needs to be changed.

16th Dec 2003, 17:16
The issue is that the industry has to be seen to be clean as well as being clean.

Get stoned/drunk and drive your car and there is a slim chance that you will kill someone or yourself.

Multiply this by 189 plus crew for a B737 notwithstanding the hole in the ground it can make and it is clear that the risks are not worth accepting.

Certain trades have a zero tolerance attitude, those who enter these trades willingly know the score. There ar no conscripts flying airliners only volunteers.

The rule of the game is no drugs plus a bottle to throttle time. Break the rule, game over, you lose.

16th Dec 2003, 17:23

I agree the industry has to be seen to be clean, but why do the unions fight drug and alcohol testing?

Why dont the regulators push drug and alcohol testing?

I think until there is a smoking hole, as you put it, it will carry on being ignored by management, unions, and regulators. If there is a smoking hole, then they will be forced to take their blinkers off.

Surely we shouldnt have to wait until then.

The industry needs to clean up its act, from the regulators down.

16th Dec 2003, 18:24
Two posts in one day on pilots and drugs (the other is on Questions).

Both from virgin posters.


16th Dec 2003, 18:49

Your antennae may be twitching (must be an expensive mod), but we all have to start posts somewhere.

Sometimes we dont want to use our usual names lest we be identified by our carriers.

I live in the US. We have had 35 guys fail since random testing was introduced, including a couple who breathed fumes over security screeners. In June, the FAA finally decided to "toughen" its stance.

I ask again, why are the unions in the UK and NZ, for example, opposing a move which would hopefully show that the employees have nothing to hide?

Why did BA say in October 2000 that it would be introducing random testing in 2001, and then quietly do nothing? If it had, the latest incidents may not have occurred.

Why are the regulators not enforcing legislation already in place?

If they dont look, they dont find anything that will embarrass themselves!

I bet the lawyers are waiting for a passenger to raise a "I could have been killed by the drunk pilot" case. Its only a matter of time.

No one is looking after the rights of the passenger to be flown from A to B by a "clean" crew. The industry needs to clean itself up.

16th Dec 2003, 19:17
I'm sure I read somewhere recently that with effect of February 2004, police will have the right to breath test crew suspected of drinking. I think the limit will be 1/4 of the current drive limit (80mg/ml) so 20 mg/ml.

Not quite random testing but a start.

16th Dec 2003, 19:28

I agree, its a start, but why has it taken so long? My UK spies says the legislation was passed a few months ago.

Why didnt BA decide to implement it, as they said they would, back in 2001.

I still cant wait for the lawsuit from the first passenger who realises they were only saved by a chance discovery!

Alcohol and and drug abuse is there, if only they will look for it.

The industry is hiding this, from the regulator down.

Boss Raptor
16th Dec 2003, 19:32
At the beginning of my career I worked for a short time for a European night express mail airline - alcoholism was a known problem but was diplomatically ignored by management and colleagues alike.

The individuals concerned would actually have bottles of booze in their bags which everyone could hear clanking as they got out of the crew bus, then the little boozing gang had day stop drinking sessions in a hotel room.

Everyone knew and it was treated in a 'dont make trouble, yes we know, it could be you one day' type attitude...until the leader of the boozing gang ran his aircraft off the runway during a take off run, denied any knowledge of it whilst they scrapped piles of mud out of his main wheel bay at the destination...he was sent home on paid furlough until 6 months later they finally terminated his contract...

Hardly a positive response to a very obvious and dangerous problem...more like 'let's not talk about it and hope it doesn't get embarrasing' - I leave it to you to define how far it has to go before it got 'embarrasing' :* :*

This should not be a case of 'covering up' so the public are not alarmed...it is a known problem and should be addressed in an proactive manner so that confidence (and discipline) is upheld.

A and C
17th Dec 2003, 00:52
I,ve been flying airliners for over 12 years now and have yet to see a pilot under the influence make it to the aircraft.

As one post above states the drinking in the night cargo airlines was common but within the stated time the drinking stopped , I did once see a pilot make it as far as the hotel lobby drunk but the rest of the crew put a stop to his nights flying.

As for the drugs this is also almost a non event on the flight deck in all this time I,ve only seen one pilot give a postive drug test and that was only for a bit if puff that he had smoked about a week before the ( FAA ) test , so clearly his judgment would not have been impaired on the day in question.

I know that the "exotic pharmaceuticals" are a bit more prevalent with the cabin crew but it is not a big problem.

The USA has random testing bit the positve test rate is very low and I think that the testing is driven more by the American tendancy to over react to a situation than by the size of the problem.

As for the 20mg limit that is about to become law in the UK I am a little worried that it is getting a bit near the level at which a person might have background alcohol level in the blood without having had a drink ( medical experts your comments please).

We all agree that drink , drugs and flying dont mix but I would not want to see a witch hunt but what I would like to see is the people who vote these rules into law have to abide by the same rules when they are working.

17th Dec 2003, 05:15
A and C

"yet to see a pilot under the influence make it to the aircraft" I assume you infer that his or her colleague/s have suggested that the pilot was unwell, and should go sick.

What if both pilots had been out together the night before, who would be the first to say "perhaps we shouldnt fly today?" I suspect neither of them would.

I still think this is a potential legal minefield, with potential rich rewards for successful litigants. Perhaps positive action will only be taken after passengers successfully sue an airline.

Boss Raptor, I agree with you that "This should not be a case of 'covering up' so the public are not alarmed...it is a known problem and should be addressed in an proactive manner so that confidence (and discipline) is upheld" But it isnt as yet.

The unions are not welcoming it, perhaps that is an indication in itself. If British Airways for instance was to uphold its October 2000 statement that it was going to introduce random testing it would need to be done throughout its worldwide network, and frequently enough so that it was a deterrent.

Perr intervention has been introduced for us in the US, but this is really quite limited in its usefullness. How often do you fly with a guy to know if he has a problem? Its a nice idea, but in my experience, is more of a cop out.

A better judge of crews behaviour is probably gained by the reception staff at the hotels, perhaps they should be included in the peer programs.

Once again, the industry needs to clean its act up, from the regulators (FAA, CAA etc), the unions, down to each employee.

But then, we would all have to realise that there is a problem. which appears unlikely, despite numerous occurences.

Devils Advocate
17th Dec 2003, 05:50
jalguy - as you're making such a big deal about this, would you please be so kind as to enlighten the rest of us as to how many incidents and / or accidents there have been as a result of ( the apparently numerous ) crews who ( according to you at least ) are operating whilst under the influence of booze and / or drugs ?

I’m sure that we would all be delighted if you could supply us with such data for, say, the last 1, 5, 10 and 20 years, but please only include those sectors where incidents are directly attributable to over indulgence in 'recreational substances' ( rather than as a result hear-say or innuendo ).

We would also be pleased if you could present your data in % terms, i.e. in respect to the total of all sectors operated, so that we can get a true sense of the scale of this problem.

Thanking you in advance.


Ps. If quoting factual evidence please include the names of the reference sources from which your 'data' was obtained.

Carnage Matey!
17th Dec 2003, 05:55

I have grave suspicions about the authenticity of jalguy. However just to correct his journalistic-type pronouncements, BA have sacked two people this year, and one resigned. Only one of the three failed a zero tolerance blood alcohol test. At least get your facts right.

Now as for drugs, do you have any evidence whatsoever to indicate the presence of a drug problem amongst any UK pilots? Are there any other things you'd like to legislate against just in case they are a prpblem as well. What about an alertness test in case the crew are tired. How about a 'mood-o-meter' in case they've had a row at home which might distract them?

This whole thread smacks of the prudish, puritancial zeal which emanates from some parts of the USA. There are a whole lot of other initiatives which will make a far more significant contribution to aviation safety than expending vast resources on a tiny problem whose profile has been exaggerated by a sensationalist media.

By the way, I don't recall any senior person within BA stating they would introduce a random screening program. Perhaps you picked up a slip of the tongue by a junior spokesperson. Unless of course you can name the individual involved?

Mostly Harmless
17th Dec 2003, 06:00
I would like to think that my employer trusts me to act in a responsible and adult like manner. That I am presumed innocent until proven guilty. I have never flown with anyone who was intoxicated, no have I ever flown under the influence of any intoxicant. It is disappointing that anyone would. Therefore, I object to being tested, often treated like a criminal, with little or no recourse in the event of a false positive. (I went through all of this in a former career. I never had the false positive, but during the orientation, we were told that they do happen and “that’s life.” You’re fired and you have no way to appeal that decision.) It is also worth noting that rarely, if ever, that the drug testing is company wide. It’s odd that you don’t see the management, president or the board of directors having to pee in a cup during work hours. How many decisions/deals have been made “under the influence” that resulted in lost money, efficiency and jobs? If it’s fair for me, it’s fair for everyone. If the people running these companies want drug testing, then lead by example.

Just a few thoughts on my part.

17th Dec 2003, 06:03
Devils Advocate

Interesting approach, no-one has been killed, so we dont need to change anything?

Have a look at http://www.drugtext.org/library/articles/97835.htm for a survey of airline alcohol policies.

http://www.asams.org/guidelines/Completed/NEW%20Alcohol%20Abuse.htm states alcohol is involved in 15% of
general aviation accidents

http://www.health20-20.org/how_high.htm for info on a crash with a pilot who had high levels of cocaine in his system, and for "Yet denial of the problem of alcohol's effect on aviation safety has been a continuous problem for those seeking to remedy the problem."

http://www.nzdf.org.nz/update/messages/2413.htm for a starter on info on the problems in New Zealand.

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2003/09/30-pilot-alcohol.htm for info on a China Airlines pilot caught out by screeners who smelt alcohol on his breath.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/977237.stm for info on British Airways supposedly intoducing drug and alcohol testing in 2001.

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/MISC/driving/s1p1.htm for info on drug testing program in the US.

I dont have a beef with BA, just if they are going to announce they do something, they should do! They got enough bad publicity recently, it even made my small state newspaper, if they had kept to their 2000 pronouncement of testing in 2001, it may not have occurred.

I assume you think that there is no problem? What do you have to fear from drug and alcohol testing?

Carnage Matey!
17th Dec 2003, 07:22
I checked the BBC link. It says specifically:

British Airways is introducing random alcohol and drug testing for staff following allegations that a pilot reported for duty after drinking the equivalent of 10 pints of beer.
It is the first major European airline to introduce the tests, which will come into force next year.

A working group has been established to look into the form of testing to be used and it will consider breath tests or blood tests.

The claim that BA is to introduce random testing is the BBCs. I recall no senior BA personnel stating that random testing would be introduced. The company commited itself to look at the issue of random testing, but did not publicly state any intention to implement such a policy. Your beef should be with the BBC, not BA.

The 'endemic drinking culture' was a creation of the Dispatches program, which was extensively analysed and largely discredited on this forum at the time. Full of inconsistencies, false assertions, discredited assumptions, voice dubbing, time-shifting and other hallmarks of hatchet job exposes. It has almost nothing to offer an informed, sensible debate on this subject.

Heroin addiction? I'm not aware that BAC operated any BA flight, nor are they a BA subsidiary or franchise. Quite why that was linked to BA is a complete mystery to me. Might as well link JetBlue or Finnair to BA.

Virgin don't fly Madrid to Brussels, thats Virgin Express, a Belgian low cost airline partially owned by Richard Branson.

Then of course there's the Royal Air Maroc.

What we have there is a collected tale of bad behaviour drawn from all the professional pilots in the whole of Europe, and any who fly into Europe. I've have no idea how many tens of thousands there are, but the total number of confirmed rule breakers numbered five. What sort of percentage is that, and does it constitute a significant problem in any reasonable context.

Interesting approach, no-one has been killed, so we dont need to change anything

No-one has been killed by meteorites hitting aircraft, but perhaps we should take preventative measures? What about alien attack in the skies? The point of this is that there are only finite resources to improve safety in aviation. CFIT remains far and away the biggest killer. If money is to be invested in safety it needs to be directed to where it will have maximum impact. It should not be sidelined into headline-grabbing measures directed at a small and statistically insignificant problem.

Edited to add that I've had a quick look at one of the other links.

health20-20 reports on a fatal crash in 1988 in which the pilot had cocaine in his blood. It touches on alcohol problems in general aviation (which is totally removed from commercial aviation), and mentions alcoholism in US Navy pilots 1960-70 (nothing to do with 'Nam then?). However the NTSB state no pilot of a U.S. certificated air carrier . . . . was found to have a positive alcohol test since at least 1964."

17th Dec 2003, 08:03
IMHO For the foreseeable future alcohol will always be a bigger threat to performance than controlled drugs. To focus on the lesser threat is a diversion, and in that sense I agree with Carnage.

My guess is that cocaine etc could become more of an issue over the next decade, as the demographic of increasing use that is documented in urban society generally moves it's way up through the age ladder and thus into responsible professions. Either that, or the typical 'user' will simply grow out of it and drug taking will remain orientated around a younger and more hedonistic mindset, but the social trends at the moment don't bear this out.

Right now though, my guess is it's statistically irrelevent. Sure it would make a great headline, but there's other more important stories to tell about issues in aviation safety.

17th Dec 2003, 10:57
statistically irrelevent

I dread the day they introduce it here.

Vamos por mas! :uhoh:

Devils Advocate
17th Dec 2003, 14:59
Carnage Matey! ....... your previous post took the words out of my mouth :ok: and I too suspect a journo. ;)

Paulo says - 'For the foreseeable future alcohol will always be a bigger threat to performance than controlled drugs.'

Err, it's not the controlled drugs that are the problem, it's the uncontrolled ones !

Incidentally, the airline I work for tests all our ( typically in their 20’s ) new / prospective Cabin Crew for drug usage. So far about 1.7% of them have failed the selection criteria as a result having traces of 'recreational substances' ( typically Cannabis and Ecstasy ) in their blood streams.

Now given that most young people are ( supposedly ) knee deep in drugs most weekends, I find it quite heartening to find that our reality (1.7%) seems to somewhat disprove this ( or maybe it’s that the other 98.3% of those who apply to us, to be Cabin Crew, are not representative of the rest of youthful society, uhm ?! )

Aside – I would be very doubtful if pilots were anywhere near this (1.7%) figure – given the very dedication & responsibility it requires to become an airline pilot, to say nothing of the expense; indeed most junior pilots don’t get paid enough to stand their round in the pub – off duty of course - whereas us old pilots are just too stingy ;) , never mind the cost of bags of charlie or speed !

Jalguy wrote – What do you have to fear from drug and alcohol testing?

I/we have nothing to fear from drug or alcohol testing but my objection is that it would appear to be testing for testing’s sake.

Tell you what, if we’re going to have testing for testings sake ( based on a supposed level of risk ) let’s have a Dr. at the bottom of the steps to give me a pre-flight once-over ( i.e. plenty of pilots have had heart attacks at the controls ), and / or maybe there should also be a quick pre-flight sim test just in case I’ve got rusty since my last LPC/OPC ( i.e. plenty of pilots have crashed due to being rusty ), and I would also agree with what Carnage Matey! said about having an ‘alertness test’ in case I’m tired ( which is quite often, especially in the summer ) plus the 'mood-o-meter' in case I’ve had a row at home ( which is precisely what happened between the old Duch and myself last night ).

W.r.t. - I assume you think that there is no problem?

I don’t need to assume as your own, so called, facts bear out the reality that there is ‘no problem’ aside from which, and as has been said before, the empirical evidence does not present lots of aircraft falling from the sky at the hands of bombed pilots, does it ?!

17th Dec 2003, 18:26
There has been (in the UK) a change in culture in the last 10 - 15 years regarding drinking but like so many attitudes we have inherited from our US cousins we are trying to make life risk free, it isn't no one escapes alive!

I wish the same puritanical zeal would be used address the known and proven effects of fatigue which I and my colleagues ARE very familiar with and live with daily.

If the general public were aware of just how tired their pilots are on many occasions, well that would make some headlines.

17th Dec 2003, 18:44
Maybe I missed something earlier, but we all know about the RTSA don't we?
In case you missed this titbit of legislation, a synopsis is below:

Earlier this year, the Railways and Transport Safety Act (RTSA) came into force and Part 5 of the Act, making it an offence to work on or with aircraft if your ability is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, is due to commence in February 2004.

The key points of the RTSA are:

· A person commits an offence if he performs a function directly relating to, or ancillary to, an aviation function when the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood, or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.

· The limit for all, except aircraft maintenance engineers, is 9 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. This equates to one quarter of the drink and drive limit.

· The limit for aircraft maintenance engineers is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. This is the same as the drink and drive limit.

· Preparing to carry out an aviation task also counts as an ancillary aviation function. It is specifically stated that personnel will be liable as soon as they report for duty.

· A person guilty of an offence shall be liable on conviction, to imprisonment for up to 2 years, to a fine or to both.

· Testing will initially be carried out by the civilian police taking a breath sample. The Act gives them the right to enter any place or board an aircraft if they reasonably suspect an offence is being committed.

· The police will be able to test those involved in an aviation accident and those who have controlled or maintained the aircraft, as they would after a road traffic accident.

· Full details of Part 5 of the Act can be found at www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/30020--f.htm#92

Good Luck with the party season....


18th Dec 2003, 11:08
Aside – I would be very doubtful if pilots were anywhere near this (1.7%) figure – given the very dedication & responsibility it requires to become an airline pilot, to say nothing of the expense

my freind life is different here. Drugs ARE a major problem and it is very easy if not natural to bribe the doctor. I am scared to see the ASPA (pilot union) files about incidents. The crew cannot even be tested for drugs when outside of Mexico. Just look who has been running the country for last 70 years.

The airlines are aware of this and do nothing. As usual.

Ignition Override
18th Dec 2003, 12:10
In the US, if the FAA's regulatory "authorities" were half as concerned about a pilot's true physiological condition (as it applies to flight safety), as it is about his/her having not the tiniest bit (trace) of alcohol or any other substance in the blood system, then the FAA would have changed the FAR 135/125 and 121 maximum duty period/minimum rest regulations decades ago.

Fortunately for regulatory authorities and accident boards, even a very minute amount of alcohol or other substances can sometimes be detected, but not the crushing day-to-day or nightly fatigue, which can result from very "legal" interpretations of the regs.

Are any PASSENGERS (self-loading freight) reading this topic?


have another coffee
18th Dec 2003, 19:29
First suspect a journo indeed, but out of the interest of the topic cant resist to react.
1. In every public job alcohol and drugs are a problem. What about the train/bus driver? What about the school teacher? What about politician (was Bush caught drink-driving, did Blair smoke something more than tobacco?) What about the military?
FACT is that it's a very very very very small number of people doing it (during their profession). See your national statistic buro for the figures. And as stated above I have to see the pilot make it to his airplane being under influance, if not stopped by a college or some regulating authority. Usually there is more behind someone not controlling his/hers drinking habit, and in my opinion it would really pay off investing more in a system to catch those people in a more socially controlled manner. Father state telling people "don't do this" usually is not of much effect. When was the last time you committed a speeding offence on the highway?
2. Is it a safety hazard? Being drunk clearly is. But being just over the legal limit, which is in most countries the least possible amount of alcohol they can reliably measure. And that is just above the level your body itself has in in its bloodlevel. Eating some over ripe fruits with lots of sugar in it brings your alcohol level already above the legal limit, with no effect on your performance.
And how do you feel after a month of heavy working, doing lot's of night flights, crossing many time zones, being in noisy hotels, not seeing your family for two weeks? Than your perfomance level is about the same as been drinking 5 pints, or 10 glasses of wine! Who has done some testing on that? Check some scientific reports about that, the best readable a swedish report about car accidents versus being tired. Also Nasa and US navy have some interesting reports about it.

Thinking about the new WRR being made in the EC really makes me grab the bottle!!! Hopefully some (EC) politician reads this and spend their money and time on some more benificial subjects than alcohol and drugs.

Edited for spelling mistakes and to add:
Hmmmm, I see Ignition Override already made my point very clear!

19th Dec 2003, 01:34
Sorry...but the last post is so much cobblers!
Firstly I was a Policeman for 19 years and spent 11 years of that at Heathrow. I have arrested a couple of pilots for drink driving, given that very few airline staff are stopped, 2 represents a very high proportion of those that were. Of course that excludes others that were arrested by other officers.
The suggestion that 'over ripe' fruit' can cause a reading to the level prescribed by the new act is again rubbish. Never have I stopped anyone who has totaly denied drinking anything and they have blown a reading of 20, ie 1/4 the drink drive limit of 80. I have arrested people who have blown 0, probably meaning thier bad driving is down to drugs not drink.
That leads me onto drugs. OK its probably not a huge problem amongst aircrew, but to denie it happens is shoving your head in the sand. I lived with a hostie and several of her friends used it, and probably within a time frame that would have meant they were impaired when they flew. I know of one pilot arrested for possession of drugs, and before you start ranting about one pilot again I mention that very very few airline staff are stopped by police at the airport.
Does it matter if this was started by a jerno? I am suprised everyones not ead against both drink and drigs on aircraft and would be only too happy to do anything to prevent an incident.
Oh and train drivers are subject to aclohol tests as are most transport occupations!

have another coffee
20th Dec 2003, 17:14
Good point, but I will myself make more clear;
1. Drunk driving is not the same as drunk flying, unless you caught those pilots on their way to work.
2. Your breathing test only will test levels above certain levels. A blood test, done after an accident etc will more precisely show the amount of alcohol levels.
Whenever alcohol or drugs involved, it's somebodies action to drink or use it. It's not something comming out of the blue. And I'm still of the opinion that it's a very very very very small number of pilots not having their (occasional) drinking habits uncontrolled, caused by other circumstances than ignorance.
Safety wise it's more effective to put some effort and money in changing other things (like WRR regulations, roster control etc) beyond the control of aircrew than doing all kinds of drug tests.
I'm not closing my eyes, its just a matter of chasing aircrew to catch a small number of alcoholic abuse or changing something 100 percent of the population is faced with.

21st Dec 2003, 23:59
We keep on talking about alcohol but what about addiction to sleeping pills? I was quite amazed to see the percentage of pilots using some strong medications with side effects not very long before a flignt.

28th Dec 2003, 13:38
BJCC Did you arrest your girlfriends friends for taking class A/B drugs? Did you arrest the pilots driving TO or FROM work?

28th Dec 2003, 16:18
By the Numbers

The proximity of the RTSA effective date and a calculation of the lead-time for placement of free-lance stories in monthly or even weekly publications says this would be just about the right moment for some junior level or free-lance journo to be working on a story for appearancd in early February as the Act becomes effective.

The headline might be: "Pilots Online confirm WORST FEARS of Public that Drunks and Druggies are Sometimes at the Controls!"

28th Dec 2003, 16:56
or "Pilots online confirm that they share general concern about risks of alcohol and flying".

Well, one can hope for fair reporting. :(

Still, I think a bit of open discussion is better than BALPAs "nothing to see here, move along madam, we'll deal with this" proposal.

A and C
28th Dec 2003, 22:56
Unfortunatly the real news that 99.999% of aircrew are drink and drug free when working is not the news that is worth printing , in national paper terms it just wont sell papers.

So if anyone is hoping for fair and balanced treatment from the press just forget it.

On PPrune last week it was stated that at least one of the BA crew who had been tested in Oslo was not guilty of having had to much alcohol in his blood and at the levels that these tests are set at means that his blood/alcohol level was practicly NIL.

This did not stop one of the UK tabloid newspapers refering to the fact that this man had been stopped from flying for a drink related test AFTER the test had proved negitive !.

I would hope that the man involved has a case in court because the paper has used mis-information to blacken this mans name after he had been found to test negative for alcohol , the leagal experts on this forum may like to comment on this.

A and C
29th Dec 2003, 04:05
You registered with this forum in 1998 and this is your first post , now do I smell a member of the fleet street scum who is just looking for his next story.

2nd Jan 2004, 04:12
Bit surprised at the level of hostility here.
Even more surprised that some think that there is no problem.
(usual aviation culture is that we have to positively prove safety).

Fact is, legislation has been passed in many countries mandating testing for drugs and alcohol (for a wide range of personnel in the UK - based on reasonable cause - i.e. if anyone "reliable" reports you). So its a fact, get used to it.

The legislation makes it an absolute offence to have drugs or alcohol in your body and sets specific limits for alcohol.
If you are tested positive, then you are guilty of a criminal offence and there is no defence (which is why a zero-tolerance level of 0.2% has been set). It seems unlikely that anyone found guilty would be returned to work......... and any airline that did not report "unfit" flight crew could be considered guilty of conspiracy - which reduces the scope for in-house rehabilitation.

What is of concern is that (zero tolerance) limits have been set for alcohol (.02%), but testing for "drugs" has been left undefined. "Drugs" includes illicit, prescribed and over the counter concoctions - anything that may impair your function - we just don't know what yet.

The body metabolises alcohol quickly, but is less efficient with other "drugs". If a zero tolerance level is set for "drugs" (as with alcohol) then an individual is likely to test positive several days after imbibing......... This could be a problem (whether for cocaine, ectasy or a prescribed anti-depressant).

What we need to know is what is meant by "drugs"?

Personally, I think random testing is just a prudent measure
and might encourage anyone with a problem to do something about it, before they lose their licence or their life.

And as long as we know what we are being tested for.........

4th Jan 2004, 09:12
Whilst there may well be a handful of cases whereby some crew operate 'outside the limit' it seems to me to be massively over- reacting to bring in this legislation. Keep the numbers in context. Elsewhere in the thread a few examples were quoted but the total number of flights is millions (world-wide). The evidence does not justify the means and it is just another example of nanny-state politics.

We already have far too many laws but why stop at just pilots? I want to know that my barrister / banker / solicitor / surgeon / doctor / nurse / MP etc, etc are all sober before representing/advising/diagnosing etc etc. This has not been well thought out at all - there are perfectly adequate laws already in place to deal with the few.

If BALPA etc called upon IFALPA and, globally, pilots refused to accept this latest legislation - if it is imposed aircraft will simply not fly (imagine how rapidly the system would shutdown). What Goverment is going to take that lot on? Think BIG!!

I hold my breath in anticipation.

4th Jan 2004, 10:02
>>If BALPA etc called upon IFALPA and, globally, pilots refused to accept this latest legislation - if it is imposed aircraft will simply not fly (imagine how rapidly the system would shutdown).<<

Yes, we must all defend the the right to fly drunk!

4th Jan 2004, 13:57

When did you last hear of a hijack and overpowering of a "barrister / banker / solicitor / surgeon / doctor / nurse / MP"?

You didn't because these people do not have alot of lives collectively held by many, single, moment in time, judgements.

That's why it's different. Medical professions can deal in life or death, but generally it's singular. The rest of the professions you name are not involved in death issues at all.

Pilots have far higher standards expected of them - I'd say rightly so.

4th Jan 2004, 19:46

No, to the first part of your question, there is something called discresion. It was him showing off, I chose to ignore him,

And yes to both On way to and from work to your second question. The one on way to was also reported to the CAA who chose to do nothing. Once he was released, he then checked in and flew a private jst. At that time there was nothing we could do to stop him.

4th Jan 2004, 20:51
Some years ago I was the accountable manager responsible for introducing what, at the time, was the first Drug & Alcohol random testing scheme employed by a UK AOC holder. The scheme was introduced following discussions with staff representatives after we faced up to the liklihood of having a scheme imposed upon us as a consequence of being awarded a contract with the US company ExxonMobil. If you work for ExxonMobil then you must have a scheme in place - this following the Exxon Valdez disaster.

We decided that we would rather have our own scheme in place than have to jump though someone else's hoops.

A democratic vote of all staff (70+) showed 80% in favour of a scheme that encompassed all staff not just "safety-critical" staff.

It took 6 months of organisation to bring the scheme to the point where we were ready to go live. During this period each department elected a representative to the Scheme Management Committee which I chaired. We all (4 in no.) attended training courses, held committee meetings with lawyers and doctors, all of which were highly qualified in their field. The basic scheme had to comply with internationally agreed norms and standards to avoid any assertions that our scheme was not good enough.

In operation the idea was to deter rather than "catch" and to help rather than sack any transgressors. We all expected the big problem to be alcohol but throughout the many tests carried out in the 18 month life of the scheme not one member of staff even indicated the lowest point on the alcohol breath tester (from memory this was 5 mmol/mltr) but we had one pilot and one engineer with drug related problems.

We were shocked and disappointed but in retrospect we had merely illustrated some of the problems prevelant in society. We would all like to think that as aircrew we have more sense than to "dabble". The reality is somewhat different and as "peer pressure" would not have helped in the cases we encountered i would venture to suggest that BALPA would like to rethink their stance.

May I suggest that a scheme set up by BALPA to international standards, administered by them and run on behalf of it's members would be the professional way out of the current dilemma. In our case the management were more than willing to meet the costs of the scheme and I suspect that this would be true of those airlines involved.

I'm more than willing to make more details of our experience available to anyone in BALPA empowered to ask.

The scheme ended, along with the Company, after 18 months due to the loss of the company's sole UK contract.

4th Jan 2004, 22:48
I have just come back from a (glorious) week's holiday in Barbados. The outbound flight (VS29 on 27/12) was long delayed and Virgin made no announcement of the cause, but word spread that it was a crewing issue.

The number of people in the departure lounge who were murmuring that it must be another drink problem was tangible.

I'm sure that it wasn't anything to do with drink, but the industry should take seriously the effect that stories like this have on the SLF. The airlines are in enough trouble without another PR blight. If that means testing for only PR/confidence reasons then that is enough justification in itself.