GA Pilots Urged to Check Medications Closely

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and the leaders of 11 aviation associations have sent a letter to all U.S.-registered pilots asking them to read prescription labels carefully and talk with their doctors to determine whether drugs they’re taking could impair their performance in the cockpit.

Reminding them that prescription drugs and some over-the-counter medicines can affect a pilot’s performance, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and the leaders of 11 aviation associations have sent a letter to every U.S.-registered general aviation pilot. It urges them to be more aware of the effects these medications can have on their skills and judgment.

The letter tells pilots to read prescription labels carefully, talk with their doctors, and determine whether drugs they’re taking could impair their performance in the cockpit. It advises them to use a personal "IM SAFE" checklist to ensure they are not impaired by Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue or Emotion, and it recommends that pilots who have recovered from an illness and have taken a medication with impairing side effects not fly until at least five maximum dosage intervals have passed.

"In all of my years of practicing aerospace medicine, I am not aware of any time in which so many aviation organizations have collaborated to get out the same message at the same time," said Dr. James Fraser, FAA’s Deputy Federal Air Surgeon. "We hope this collaborative educational effort will put a dent in pilots’ usage of impairing medications and help lower the general aviation fatal accident rate."

Besides Huerta's, the letters bear the names of executives from the Aircraft Electronics Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, American Bonanza Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Association of Flight Instructors, National Air Transport Association, National Business Aviation Association, Society of Aviation Flight Educators, and the U.S. Parachute Association.

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