A recent potential incident involving a non approved medication acts as a timely reminder to instructors to remain vigilant and insist that their students are informed with respect to the use of medication before flight.
In the case concerned, the student pilot was observed preparing to take a medication during the preparations for flight (a dual check for first solo.) When queried on the medication being taken, the student responded that it was “just an air sickness tablet.” The student pilot did not have the packaging or warning information for the drug concerned, as it had been purchased overseas (Thailand.) Neither, had approval from a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) been sought or obtained.
An internet search on the active ingredient revealed a number of side effects associated with this preparation. Some of the more serious side effects included:
Nervous system side effects have commonly included
- Drowsiness and sedation.
- Impaired motor skills,
- Excitation and
- Headache and tinnitus have been reported rarely.
- Convulsions and coma have also been reported.
Other side effects have included
- Blurred vision and
CAR 256 (2) requires that a person shall not act as a member of the operating crew (including student pilots undertaking dual flight instruction) if their capacity to do so is impaired by reason of his or her having consumed or taken alcohol, drugs, pharmaceutical or medicine etc.
Clearly the side effects listed above precluded the student pilot from taking this preparation before flight. In spite of this, the student pilot believed that he was taking a benign and harmless over the counter medication for mild airsickness. It is the responsibility of APTA and its instructors to inform student pilots of their responsibilities and to enforce compliance by canceling flights where appropriate.
The preparation concerned contained other ingredients to suppress some of the less desirable side effects, however, neither APTA staff nor the student pilot possess the expertise to assess the safety of using of this drug while acting as flight crew. Use of medications may only be approved by a DAME.
Please take this incident as a reminder to inform APTA’s student pilots of their responsibilities with respect to the use of drugs and alcohol while acting flight crew in the capacity of pilot in command and dual instructional flights.
Mandate the use of the I.M.S.A.F.E. checklist to self assess the fitness of the pilot before flight. If the response to M for Medication is yes, then the flight should not proceed. The IMSAFE checklist is readily available in the CASA publications. The Visual Flight Rules Guide (VFRG), the Visual Pilot Guides (VPG) for the Melbourne basin, Sydney basin etc. and the CASA website all include the IMSAFE checklist and advice on alcohol and other drugs..
Use of all medications while acting as a member of the operating crew may only be approved by a DAME.
Be alert for warning signs that pilots operating APTA aeroplanes may not be fit for flight, suffering from the adverse effects of drugs or medication.
APTA’s Drug and Alcohol Educational material contains helpful information about non tested substances including side effects.
If in doubt do not fly or do not take the medication, but only if you are fit to fly.