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Alcohol law/regulations and flying


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For years I have operated on the "8 hours bottle to throttle" mantra.


What are the actual regulations as apply to private flying?


Is there a difference for RAA and GA administered flights?


Is there a specified blood alcohol limit in the regulations governing


private flying?.





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Guest TOSGcentral

A few views on this one – as it may become increasingly important, and I may be surprisingly open about my comments.



All we really have to go on is what is in the Ops Manual and that is the 8 hours bit (and I assume this is currently common to GA). I do not personally know of any blood alcohol levels that are mandated other than the traffic laws.



We should assume those could be applied against a pilot and certainly the police are making considerable inroads in random checks against the trail bike rider and boating fraternities – a fly in could potentially be of interest to them! We should not assume that flying is not also on their list! Anything over the legal driving limit and you could be charged and you would likely really cop it as pilots are traditionally seen as ‘responsible’ beings!



On my understanding the alcohol absorption (how quickly your level goes down) is directly related to how much you have drunk (ie strength/quantity) but is closely related to your physical fitness, any diseases and body weight. What may be true for one may not be for another.



To give you an example of a changing situation: A couple of years ago I was called as an expert witness at a court case against a CFI/PE who was charged with low flying in the middle of a town and effectively using an aircraft in a menacing manner. He was jailed for it!



The police were ecstatic! Not because of the win but because the judge had made a precedent decision! He classed an aircraft as a vehicle and that let the police have much more freedom in dealing with aviation related matters anywhere, but particularly in rural areas where things are taken a bit more ‘freely’.



Some of the frustration of rounding up the cowboys is that the police have had so few powers via the legislation that the average cop knows. Normally it is ‘aviation’ and so is referred to CASA. They are not really interested in ultralights unless it is really serious so they pass it to RAAus – keep your own members in order. RAAus do not have the manpower or resources to go research every infringement and not much teeth to do anything about it if they did! So nobody really goes anywhere.



That precedent decision could change things a lot. If an aircraft, boat or unregistered off-road motor cycle is classed as a ‘vehicle’ and can be dealt with under the Road Traffic Act then the police could do far more than they are currently able to in the aviation area.



Now there are a few other issues on this subject that may also be of interest to some readers. We have to also consider some social and ‘political’ consequences to what we personally do – or are thought to be doing as far as the ‘demon drink’ is concerned.



I found, a few years ago, to my horror and fury, that complaints had been laid against me to both CASA and RAAus for not just flying, but also instructing, whilst intoxicated. I had, without my knowledge nor any reference to explain myself, been very thoroughly observed and my personal life closely examined without my knowledge. I was totally exonerated but that is not really the point for someone who is actually going ‘over the limit’ – so watch it! That came out of a political local fight from the person who was losing and who grasped at anything to discredit me. It really is that easy to do so play the game straight and do not mix alcohol and flying for that additional reason, other than obvious safety issues!



But there is a broader issue and that is wrapped up with the public image of the movement. The situation can be difficult and requires a little thoughtful management!



When I became a pilot and instructor I did not consider that I was taking vows of chastity and abstinence – becoming some form of monk. I like drinking and probably drink more than most people. I also like females but the wife takes care of that one!



I did not comply with the 8 hour rule – I extended it to 12 hours so that I was totally sure! That plays hell with your social life! I was flying very early, every day, so any drinking was out for me beyond 6pm.



Taking guests out to dinner was a torment in politeness because they were getting going and wanted a normal evening. I now and then spared myself a small sherry for ‘politeness; but no more. The locals soon picked it up and when they saw me abruptly stop ‘drinking’ and switch to soft drinks there were the comments of ‘flying tomorrow Tony?’ I was always flying tomorrow!



Stuff up that one and you, and the movement, could get a nasty reputation! Apparently alcoholic flying instructors drinking during the day are assumed to continue into the evening as most normal people do. But life styles can sometimes be different and sometimes have to be. No matter how kosher you take your drinking and flying – still be aware of the image it creates. Above all drink responsibly and DO NOT mix it with flying!



I trust you will all forgive the personal recounting as examples of a situation? Life is not just about the law and what those parameters are!









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