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Summary

Summary

The Boeing 767 aircraft was conducting an international passenger flight from Auckland to Melbourne. During cruise the pilot in command (PIC) felt increasingly fatigued, and while outside the flight deck his condition deteriorated. He felt shaky and nauseous, and had pain in the back of his head and neck. He was administered oxygen by a member of the cabin crew. The PIC was relieved of duty and the flight continued to the destination with the copilot at the controls. An alert phase was declared. After landing the PIC was taken to hospital for observation. Subsequent tests proved inconclusive, but no evidence was found of a heart-related problem.

The pilot reported a history of stress-related difficulties over several years. He had received treatment for anxiety through a combination of stress management and medication, in the form of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The pilot was also being treated for hypertension. It is possible that the incapacitation of the PIC was related to an anxiety reaction precipitated by a combination of factors including low blood pressure due to hypertension medication, fatigue and a head cold.

The CASA policy of granting medical certification to some private and commercial pilots and air traffic controllers who are taking medication such as SSRIs differs from that of most other Civil Aviation Authorities. However, the approach taken by CASA is in line with that recommended by the Aerospace Medical Association. In 2005, CASA published a safety evaluation of the policy. The report concluded that the policy was appropriate and that there were no safety concerns relating to the practice.

 
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