The Effect of Alcohol and Fatigue on an FAA Readiness-to-Perform Test
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The Effect of Alcohol and Fatigue on an FAA Readiness-to-Perform Test

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  • English

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      Readiness to perform (RTP) testing is considered by some to be a broad-based alternative or supplement to biochemical testing for drugs and alcohol. Since it is also thought to detect impairment due to other sources (e.g., fatigue, illness, depression), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is interested in exploring its scientific validity and practical utility. This study defined the statistical sensitivity and individual diagnosticity of an RTP test utilizing the NovaScan™ paradigm.

      Methods: 77 male subjects within 3 age groupings (25-34, 4048, and 54-62) were administered alcohol sufficient to raise their breath alcohol content (BRAC) to .08% BrAC. FAA-NovaScan testing occurred once each hour as their BRAC levels rose to .08% and diminished back to baseline levels. The double-blind design involved having alcohol drinks and "sham" alcohol drinks administered in a counter-balanced order on 2 separate days.

      Results: An estimate of the "reliability" of the test once it reached plateau levels indicated that most reaction time variables had a reliability between .76 and .94, with some percent correct measures showing too little variability to calculate meaningful reliabilities. Multivariate and univariate analyses of variance were conducted to determine whether the test was sensitive to various levels of ' BRAC. Ingestion of alcohol produced statistically significant effects on RTP test performance. Reaction time measures on all 3 tasks in the FAA-RTP test showed statistically significant decrements during the alcohol ingestion phase of the alcohol day that were monotonically related to BRAC level while BRAC was increasing.

      When BRAC was decreasing, alcohol-induced decrements were generally more severe, and were not monotonically related to the BRAC levels in all cases. A task requiring repetitive attention appeared most sensitive to alcohol concentration, followed by a task requiring mental rotation and memory-y. A visual search and memory task, although not as effective in detecting alcohol levels, showed some significant effects, apparently contributing to the efficiency of the entire test. Candidate scoring algorithms were developed to determine whether the test could have detected individuals at each BRAC level. When cut-off points of 2.0 standard deviations were used on several test variables, the procedure would have detected 700 of the subjects at .08% BRAC, 88% at .06% BRAC, and 76% at .04% BRAC. With this criterion, 30% of the subjects would also have "failed" the test, even with no alcohol in their system. Inspection of results on the placebo day revealed that when the test was administered twice, as it would in actual implementation, this false positive rate was reduced to 24%.

      Conclusions: The FAA-RTP test is sensitive in detecting performance decrements due to the generally accepted levels of legal alcohol intoxication. As such, it shows promise as a non-invasive screening procedure.

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