Ah yes, another great headline for aviation:
Hundreds of U.S. Pilots Treated for Drug Abuse and Psychiatric Disorders, Review Finds
News out of the Boston Herald Thursday last by Jessica Heslam leads off her story with the following paragraph: "Hundreds of commercial and private U.S. pilots have been diagnosed and treated for a broad array of serious psychiatric and medical conditions, including schizophrenia, attempted suicide, sexual deviance, alcoholism and drug abuse, a Herald review has found." No doubt what all of us thought was the swagger of a competent pilot may turn out - in reality - to be the stumbling of a drunken captain. So, what to do? What to do?
Here are some suggestions
As you board your flight the captain is usually standing near the cockpit door, his gold metal aviator sunglasses dangling from his neck. Just lean over coyly to the pilot as if to ask a question, but really to smell his breath. Once you take your seat, watch and see if a stewardess rushes to the cockpit, hot steaming black coffee pot in hand - beware of the hung-over pilot! Perhaps he spent the night carousing with that gorgeous, tall, slender stew with the short blond hair and blazing blue eyes in the 1st class cabin. No, probably it was that short, dark haired beauty in the main cabin with her long black hair draped over her shoulders and those deep brown eyes.
So Many Pilots, So Few Airplanes
What are we to do? The review revealed these staggering statistics:
- 2,700 pilots have been treated for alcohol abuse;
- 1,253 pilots have been diagnosed as alcoholics;
- 1,377 pilots have been treated for drug abuse;
- 87 pilots were treated or diagnosed with sexual deviation in the form of pedophilia, voyeurism and fetishism;
- 80 pilots have been treated for bipolar disorder or paranoia;
- 23 pilots have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder;
- 15 pilots have been treated for schizophrenia.
My word, which one is piloting your flight? I think I know one of the 87 treated for voyeurism - how you doing, Mike?
Come On Folks, Let's Get Real!
Towards the end of the article we find this statement: "The total number encompassed by the review represents a small fraction of the 550,000 registered pilots medically cleared to fly." According to an excerpt from "Alcoholism and Other Drug Problems"
by James E. Royce, S.J., Ph. D. and David Scratchley, Ph.D. they found that: "In 1993 NCADD put the figure at 12.1 million. Using our working definition but applying it conservatively, one can say as a rule of thumb that alcoholics constitute 4 percent of the general population. In an adult population where at least three-fourths are drinkers, about 6 percent of the total group are probably alcoholic. In groups where practically all are drinkers, as in certain professions or types of work, the alcoholism rate may run about 8 percent, or one in twelve. If we include alcohol abusers as well as alcoholics, the best estimate is 10.5 percent of working Americans." OK, so let's divide the 2,700 pilots identified above by the number of registered pilots medically cleared to fly - 550,000 - and we find that these 2,700 pilots represent 0.49% of all pilots cleared to fly! What's even more important to understand is that this article didn't determine if any of these pilots are still flying. For that matter, the article didn't even research whether these were airline pilots or - heaven forbid - those lowly, incompetent private pilot single engine land types!
Let's Be Honest!
I don't know about you, but I am tired of our hobby and profession being bashed by this kind of publicity. It was all over the news - I saw it, yes, on Fox News, but we need to fight back. Every pilot I know or have ever met has taken flying their aircraft very serious, whether it was a Piper J3 Cub or a Boeing 747. Where are some great articles to balance out this nonsense? How many pilots do you know that are flying high? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Its important not to focus so much on the statistics, but [on people's] perceptions. — Federico Peña, U.S. Transportation Secretary, quoted in USA Today newspaper, 22 December 1994.
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