You may have heard that flying is safer than driving and that the annual number of injuries and fatalities from plane crashes is much lower than the numbers from car accidents. You may also know that there are certain factors that can increase the danger for drivers, passengers and others on Texas highways. A driver can control many of these factors, such as fatigue, distraction and alcohol use.
It stands to reason that similar factors would create an unsafe situation for you and the other passengers on a plane. Pilots know this and are required to perform a self-assessment before flying to determine if they can safely operate the plane. Like many drivers on the road, your pilot may be less than honest about his or her fitness to fly.
Alcohol in the cockpit
Perhaps one of the riskiest behaviors your pilot may attempt is to fly a plane under the influence of alcohol. While drivers of motor vehicles are limited to a blood alcohol content of .08, pilots may not fly with a BAC of .04 or if it has been less than eight hours since they consumed alcohol. The same reasons that make it unsafe to drive a car apply to those controlling a plane.
Alcohol makes you slow to react appropriately, and it can also make you disoriented and sleepy. It also affects your motor skills and judgement, which, in a pilot, could lead to tragedy for those on board. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends a pilot wait at least 24 hours after drinking before getting into the cockpit because the symptoms of a hangover can also affect a pilot’s ability to think clearly.
More common factors
While you may hope that the signs of an intoxicated pilot would be obvious enough to members of a crew to prevent a pilot from taking flight, other factors may be just as dangerous and less obvious to others. A pilot may shrug off some of these symptoms, placing your life in danger:
- Illness that creates pressure in the sinuses or makes a pilot lethargic, weak or fatigued
- Medication, including over-the-counter medicines, that have debilitating, residual, unpredictable or unknown side effects
- Overwhelming stress due to personal issues, financial struggles, physical conditions or unhealthy habits
- The cumulative effects of fatigue, jet lag or hectic scheduling
The pilot of your plane may also be dealing with emotional issues that are out of control. The ability to maintain a steady demeanor and a calm head under pressure is crucial for a pilot. Otherwise, it may be difficult to handle simple situations before they escalate into crises.
Most plane crashes are the result of human error, most often within the cockpit. A pilot who ignores the factors that may increase the likelihood of making a critical mistake places you and your fellow passengers in grave danger, and he or she may be held liable for any injuries or losses you suffer as a result.
Family members of victims of fatal airplane crashes may be eligible for compensation. However, personal injury cases involving commercial airliner crashes can be extremely complex. Family members should seek representation from an attorney with experience in such cases.