Stronger Federal Aviation Administration Requirements Needed To Identify and Reduce Alcohol Use Among Civilian Pilots

CED-78-58: Published: Mar 20, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1978.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

During the period from 1965 to 1975, the National Transportation Safety Board, an independent agency responsible for investigating and determining the probable causes of aircraft accidents, cited alcohol impairment of pilot judgment and efficiency as a probable cause or contributing factor in 485 general aviation accidents, of which 430 resulted in fatalities. General aviation involves all civilian flying except by U.S. airlines.

Studies by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) show that the consumption of alcohol adversely affects pilot performance. However, FAA does not routinely check the pilots' state traffic conviction records for alcohol-related motor vehicle convictions. Instead, pilots are relied on to disclose these convictions in their medical histories and often conceal them. The establishment of minimum blood-alcohol levels and implied consent regulations to test the presence of alcohol would: (1) help FAA to more precisely identify alcohol's role in accidents so that appropriate measures can be taken; (2) improve enforcement to enable better identification of violators; (3) reduce the investigatory time required to obtain evidence to sustain violations of FAA regulations; and (4) serve as a deterrent to pilots who may consider drinking before and during flight.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: FAA should: (1) establish minimum blood-alcohol levels so that flying under the influence of alcohol can be clearly defined; and (2) require pilots to submit to mandatory sobriety tests or have their licenses suspended as required for motorists in every state. Congress should make the National Driver Register accessible to FAA.


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »