Dangers of Piloting Under Influence

Pilots under the influence of drugs or alcohol are simply playing with the lives of their passengers and crew members and pose a risk to other aircraft and people on the ground. It is more difficult for pilots under the influence of alcohol or drugs to process information, assess situations, and make good choices-all of which are of the utmost importance when operating an aircraft.

Alcohol is a depressant and slows the functions of the central nervous system. Normal brain function slows, and the pilot is unable to function normally. Alcohol retards the pilot’s information processing skills and hand-eye coordination.

Alcohol also reduces a pilot’s physical performance abilities, leading to a lack of balance and coordination and decreased reaction time. Nearly all aspects of the pilot’s vision are impaired, the effects of which include:

  • Decreased peripheral vision.
  • Reduced depth perception.
  • Decreased night vision.
  • Poor focus.
  • Difficulty in distinguishing colors (particularly red and green).

Operating an aircraft is very demanding and requires special knowledge and abilities and perfect vision. For a pilot to be successful, he or she must demonstrate high levels of cognitive functioning and psychomotor skills, both of which are impaired by alcohol and drugs.

Pilots are required to be skilled in tasks such as working in three dimensions, navigating, and communicating. Regardless of blood alcohol content, these skills are all the more challenging to master when conducted in an environment with decreased partial pressure of oxygen, making clarity of mind an absolute necessity.

Aircraft travel at much faster speeds than automobiles, boats, or any other mode of transportation. This means that pilots must be alert and able to demonstrate excellent judgment, decision-making skills, and memory. Alcohol affects the body in ways that impair these crucial piloting necessities.