Aviation and alcohol
"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 from the body is essentially the same. Therefore, the more alcohol an individual consumes, the longer it takes his/her body to get rid of it. Even after complete elimination of all of the alcohol in the body, there are undesirable effects-hangover-that can last 48 to 72 hours following the last drink.
"The majority of adverse effects produced by alcohol relate to the brain, the eyes, and the inner ear-three, crucial organs to a pilot." (Miller & Morphet, 2000, pg 91) Brain effects include impaired reaction time, reasoning, judgment, and memory. Alcohol decreases the ability of the brain to make use of oxygen. This adverse effect can be magnified as a result of simultaneous exposure to altitude, characterized by a decreased partial pressure of oxygen. Visual symptoms include eye muscle imbalance, which leads to double vision and difficulty focusing. Inner ear effects include dizziness, and decreased hearing perception.
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