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

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  • English

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      "Biological samples collected from fatally injured pilots in aviation accidents involving all types of aircraft, including amateur-built aircraft, are submitted to the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) for accident investigation. These samples are analyzed for fire gases, ethanol, and drugs. Trends of amateur-built aircraft accidents and toxicological findings in the associated pilot fatalities have not been examined. Amateur-built aircraft accidents that occurred during 1990–2009 were evaluated by retrieving necessary information from the CAMI toxicology database. Probable cause and factor in the amateur-built aircraft mishaps were obtained from the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB's) aviation accident database. Of 6309 aviation accidents from which CAMI received postmortem samples, 979 (16%) were related to amateur-built aircraft. The highest number of aviation mishaps occurred during summer, which was true with amateur-built as well as with all other aircraft. There was a decreasing trend in accidents of non-amateur-built aircraft, whereas there was an increasing trend in accidents of amateur-built aircraft. In the 979 accidents (pilots), 392 were positive for ethanol and/or drugs. Ethanol was found in 29 pilots, drugs in 345, and ethanol plus drugs in 18. For ethanol/drug-related accidents also, a decreasing trend was observed with non-amateur-built aircraft and an increasing trend with amateur-built aircraft. Of the 392 amateur-built aircraft, 388 (99%) were flying under the general aviation category. In the 392 pilots, 238 (61%) held private pilot flying certificates and 260 (66%) third-class airman medical certificates. The spectrum of drugs found in the amateur-built aircraft accident pilot fatalities was consistent with commonly used drugs in the general population. The percentage of pilots wherein prescription drugs were detected was 26% for amateur-built aircraft, whereas it was 16% for non-amateur built aircraft and 18% for all aircraft. Ethanol/drug use and medical condition were determined to be a cause or factor in 42 (11%) of the 385 ethanol/drug-positive amateur-built aircraft accidents investigated by the NTSB. However, the contributory role of the 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. The increasing trend of such accidents is of significant concern."
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