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Aviation and Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages used by many to “unwind” or relax, act as a social “ice-breaker,” a way to alter one’s mood by decreasing inhibitions. Alcohol consumption is widely accepted, often providing the cornerstone of social gatherings and celebrations. Along with cigarettes, many adolescents associate the use of alcohol as a rite of passage into adulthood. While its use is prevalent and acceptable in our society, it should not come as a surprise that problems arise in the use of alcohol and the performance of safety-related activities, such as driving an automobile or flying an aircraft. ;These problems are made worse by the common belief that accidents happen;to other people, but not to me.;”(Dick, 2001) There is a tendency to forget that flying an aircraft is a highly demanding knowledgeable and psychomotor task that takes place in an inhospitable environment where pilots are exposed to various sources of stress.Alcohol, used in the aviation industry by defiant individuals, negatively affects themselves as well as those people associated with the aviation industry.
Alcohol is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine, and transported by the blood throughout the body.Its toxic effects vary considerably from person to person, and are influenced by variables such as gender, body weight, rate of consumption (time), and total amount consumed. According to Stratton, Howe & Battaglia (1996), the average, healthy person eliminates pure alcohol at a fairly constant rate – about 1/3 to 1/2 oz. of pure alcohol per hour, which is equivalent to the amount of pure alcohol contained in any of the popular drinks listed in Table 1.
TABLE 1: Amount of alcohol in various alcoholic beverages.
This rate of elimination of alcohol is relatively constant, regardless of the total amount of alcohol consumed. In other words, whether a person consumes a few or many drinks, the rate of alcohol elimination fro…

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