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

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 had not previously been examined. In this study, amateur-built aircraft accidents that occurred during 1990–2009 were evaluated by retrieving necessary information from the CAMI toxicology database. Probable causes and factors 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 review showed 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, 392 pilots were positive for ethanol and/or drugs. For ethanol/drug-related accidents, a decreasing trend was observed with non-amateur-built aircraft and an increasing trend with amateur-built aircraft. Percentages of pilots with prescription drugs were 26% for amateur-built aircraft, 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. Drugs found in the pilots were consistent with commonly used medications in the general population. 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. Regardless, the increasing trend of such accidents is of significant concern.


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  • Accession Number: 01475329
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 1 2013 4:40PM