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Medications and Flight Safety

Updated: 2 days ago



An important part preparing for a flight is making sure that you are in the best shape to complete the flight safely. As pilot in command it is up to you to gather any and all information pertaining to the flight. That includes your own health. As included in that I’m safe checklist, you have to note your medication’s and ground yourself if necessary.


The FAA does not have a specific list of “approved” medications for pilots although the FAR AIM precludes that safety may be compromised if a pilot has a condition or medication. If you would like a generic list, AOPA defines allowed/disallowed medications for pilots who have medical certificates. Any pilots with BasicMed certificates will check in with their physician to address whether or not they will be safe and able to fly as PIC.


FAR AIM


FAR 61.53 prohibits acting as pilot-in-command or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person:

Knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirement for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation, or:

Is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person being unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation.


Risks of medication usage


Changes in altitude Will affect the concentrations of atmospheric gases in your blood as you breathe in and out. This can cause drugs to have different or more intense side effects than they might have on the ground. This includes over the counter medication that may have little to no side effects until you fly at a higher altitude and experience impaired judgment or other side effects.


If a medication causes fatigue or tiredness, the pilot is considered “flying impaired.” While experiencing feelings of lethargy, the pilot might exemplify the characteristics of resignation. If a medication causes irritability, a pilot may illustrate symptoms of antiauthority; In both of these scenarios, the pilot has a hazardous attitude and possibly impaired judgement. Not to mention the physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, insomnia, headache, nausea, and many others that will inhibit a pilot to fly an aircraft safely.

BasicMed


Your physician will discuss with you all of the prescription or nonprescription drugs that you currently take. Depending on the specific medication and dosage, you may still be able to fly the aircraft. Some medications will require complete grounding while others will not affect the safety of the flight. Some medications may require a waiting period that will allow you to fly after certain amount of time. A pilot under basic med will still have to comply with the FAR AIM as stated above.



Medical Conditions


The following list specifies disqualifying medical conditions. The FAA may issue medical certification by case.

  • Angina pectoris

  • Bipolar disease

  • Cardiac valve replacement

  • Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant

  • Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications

  • Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of cause

  • Epilepsy

  • Heart replacement

  • Myocardial infarction

  • Permanent cardiac pacemaker

  • Personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts

  • Psychosis

  • Substance abuse

  • Substance dependence

  • Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without satisfactory explanation of cause.

Check out AOPA's list of approved and disapproved medications here. Search for a medical examiner in your area here.


Please note that you should only start or stop taking a medication after consulting with your physician.



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