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September 18, 1981

'Drunk pilot' testing may be mandated next year

JAMA. 1981;246(12):1295. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320120009004

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing that pilots be "subject to the same basic procedures for determining [alcoholic] intoxication that most states apply to motor vehicle operators."

However, the proposed standard is 2 1/2 times stricter than that imposed on drivers by 48 of the 50 states. The states' standard for declaring drivers intoxicated is 100 mg of ethanol for every deciliter of blood. The proposed FAA standard for pilots is 40 mg/dL.

The more strict standard for pilots would reflect "the fact that even small amounts of alcohol can affect pilot performance, especially at high altitudes," says FAA spokesman John G. Leyden. Although present FAA regulations prohibit anyone from piloting an airplane while under the influence of alcohol or within eight hours of consuming an alcoholic beverage, there is no standard for defining intoxication or requirement that pilots suspected of drinking take a test. The proposed regulation, which