Flying Under The Influence: Truth Behind Pilot Drinking

Flying Under The Influence: Truth Behind Pilot Drinking

While you may have heard of driving under the influence, what about flying under the influence? Although a few drinks here and there aren’t horrible, it’s well-established that too much of something is never good, especially alcohol. Not only is alcohol a major factor in car accidents, but the abuse of alcohol in aviation also contributes to alcoholism among pilots and aviation accidents. If you’ve ever seen the movie Flight starring Denzel Washington, then you may know what we’re talking about. Today, we’re exposing the truth behind pilot drinking.


Can Pilots Drink Alcohol?

It’s understandable to think that pilots aren’t even allowed near alcohol. I’m sure you wouldn’t feel too comfortable knowing that your pilot has just had a few drinks before climbing behind the controls and navigating you through the sky. Pilots are allowed to drink alcohol, but, of course, there are certain regulations in place to ensure that neither pilots nor passengers are ever at risk.


Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administered a new rule called “bottle to throttle,” which states that all pilots must stop drinking at least 12 hours before they fly. Although the previous wait time was 8 hours, bottle to throttle was implemented in 2019, and just days after two United Airlines pilots who were in Scotland were arrested for nearly flying drunk before their flight took off for the United States.


Moreover, depending on how much the person drinks, 12 hours may not always be enough for the alcohol to be completely flushed from the pilot’s system. Thankfully, the FAA thinks of everything. The pilot alcohol limit is anything less than.03 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). This means that pilots with a BAC at or above .04 percent will be prohibited from flying.


Why Do Pilots Drink So Much?

The dangers of pilots drinking and flying had always existed but were specially revealed when the movie Flight came out in 2012. In this movie, Denzel Washington plays commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker who has a drug and alcohol problem he had managed to keep under wraps until he had to pull off a miraculous crash-landing. Although the crash was ultimately the result of a mechanical malfunction, and he was able to land the plane, the investigation into the crash eventually exposes his addiction.


This movie only served to further illustrate the link between aviation and alcohol abuse, specifically among pilots. But why do pilots drink so much?


Generally, some common reasons for pilot drinking include:


  • Isolation
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Jetlag
  • Fatigue
  • Long hours spent awake
  • Lack of sleep
  • Frequently away from loved ones
  • Uncomfortable conditions


These professionals are not only isolated for hours on end, but they’re also placed under a lot of pressure. As a result, boredom, loneliness, and the anxiety of transporting hundreds of lives nearly every day may cause them to seek alcohol as a way to relax.


Additionally, because pilots are alone for the majority of their workdays, the usual signs of alcoholism can go undetected. They may also be able to function under the influence of alcohol, otherwise referred to as high-functioning alcoholism.


For instance, one of the biggest red flags of alcohol abuse is when a person starts doing most of their drinking alone or isolated from others, even among family or in social settings. When it comes to pilot drinking, most of their alcohol consumption is done alone because they’re often by themselves. They’re not always around close friends or family who can keep them accountable or pick up on the issue before it gets worse.


Not only are they often awake and jetlagged, but they’re also away from their families for extended periods, missing out on quality time. They have little time to decompress, often moving from one hotel to another while traveling. All that goes to say is that being a pilot is extremely stressful, which many pilots attempt to cope with by drinking alcohol.


If you suspect that your loved one has a drinking problem, try to get them help. Gently talk to them about their behavior and offer to help them find alcohol treatment. At Seaside Palm Beach, we offer that as well as luxury detox to make their recovery as smooth and comfortable as possible. Call us. We can help.


Consequences of Flying Drunk

So what happens when a pilot is arrested for flying under the influence? If a pilot is discovered to have a BAC of 0.04 or more, the FAA can have the pilot’s license suspended for a year or place criminal charges, even if they haven’t taken off in an aircraft. Although these incidents don’t always result in a permanent revocation of the pilot’s license, for the most part, the consequences reach that point.


Airlines are required by the FAA to test pilots randomly for drugs or alcohol. These tests may also be required following an accident or when someone – such as a crew member or security personnel – suspects that the pilot might be under the influence of alcohol.


Addiction Treatment for Pilots and Aviation Professionals

Alcoholic airline pilots require a special type of rehab program to help them recover and get sober. As they are faced with the responsibility of hundreds of lives, as well as isolation from loved ones, our Palm Beach luxury rehab understands what these individuals need to replace drinking with a healthier coping mechanism.


If you or a loved one is a pilot in need of a luxury inpatient alcohol rehab, we can help. Seaside offers addiction treatment for pilots that is specifically catered to their needs. We also offer treatment for professional athletes and physicians or medical personnel who have fallen victim to drug or alcohol abuse.


To learn more about our rehab programs for professionals and how we can help you or someone you care about achieve long-term sobriety, call our South Florida luxury rehab today at 561-677-9374.


Related Reading:

Signs of a Weekend Alcoholic

What Medications Are Used in Alcohol Detox?

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