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Airborne and hung over.

Airborne and hung over

Even 14 hours after drinking enough alcohol to becom legallyintoxicated, airplane pilots may find that the skies are not friendly. Lingering "hangover effects" can interfere with pilot performance and reactions to emergencies, according to a report in the December AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY.

Jerome A. Yesavage and Von Otto Leirer of Stanford UniversitySchool of Medicine charted the performance of 10 experienced Navy pilots. Each flew two simulated flights, the first after abstaining from alcohol consumption for at least 48 hours, the second 14 hours after consuming ethanol mixed with diet soft drinks at a dose equal to five to seven 6-ounce glasses of wine. All subjects attained blood alcohol concentrations widely accepted as evidence of driving while intoxicated.

One simulated flight involved the loss of two of four engineson one side of the aircraft during takeoff. The other scenario concentrated on a return to the airport and the same runway, again with the loss of two engines on one side.

Pilots performed worse in the hangover condition on a numberof measures, say the researchers. The ability to control the aircraft's turn toward the side of the power loss dropped significantly on takeoff, they note. The same ability also suffered on landing, but not to a statistically significant degree, as did the ability to keep the aircraft properly aligned vertically and horizontally on takeoff and landing. The spread of individual scores did, however, increase significantly for errors in keeping the aircraft pointed in the proper direction on takeoff and landing, and for errors in vertical alignment on landing. This indicates that while average scores for these measures did not substantially drop, performance decreases for some pilots were much greater than for others.

Furthermore, say the researchers, pilots generally did notreport awareness of the hangover effects. Pilot whose flight performance markedly dropped the day after smoking strong doses of marijuana were also unaware of hangover effects (SN: 11/16/85, p.310).

The alcohol dose administered to the pilot was high, acknowledgethe researchers, but they say the results "suggest concern about the performance of those entrusted with complex behavioral and cognitive tasks within 14 hours after drinking enough alcohol to be considered legally intoxicated."
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Title Annotation:effects of alcohol on air pilots
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 20, 1986
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