No self medication mid-air, airline crew told

Do not take medicines without consulting a doctor mid-air. This is the advice given by an investigation panel to aircraft crew following an incident on a SpiceJet flight.

The recommendation by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) came recently following its investigation into an incident in January 2014 where a SpiceJet pilot-in-command (PIC) fell ill mid-air after he took a pain killer for his neck pain mid-air.

Though the plane landed safely, the AAIB has not taken the incident lightly and in its recommendation to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), it said the regulator should sensitise all airlines to educate their crew of the “consequences of self-medication and also the importance of communicating any ailments” to the company doctor during the pre-flight medical.

“DGCA should issue instructions to all schedule operators should to sensitize flight crew recurrent training on the importance of procedures in case of flight crew incapacitation,” it said.

The panel said the “most probable cause of the SpiceJet pilot getting incapacitated was due to side-effects of a pain killer which he took any prescription or consultation by a doctor”.

Prior to the flight Mumbai-Hyderabad on 8 January 2014, the PIC had neck pain but he decided to continue with his flight schedule as the pain was reducing. He also did not record this during the pre-flight check-up.

“During flight he experienced pain in the neck and consumed a pain killer medicine in flight to subside the pain. During descent, he experienced partial loss of hearing and a blurred vision and decided to take an anti-allergic tablet to counter the presumed reaction of the pain killer medicine,” the report said.

According to the report, the PIC said due to repeated stretching of arms to operate controls and overhead panels the neck pain got aggravated and for relief, he decided to take a pain killer from his flight bag in which he used to carry over the counter medicine like pain killer and anti-allergic medicine.

During descent into Hyderabad, he experienced partial loss of hearing and a blurred vision. To counter the existing reaction of the painkiller he took an anti-allergic tablet, the symptoms improved after 10 minutes of taking anti-allergic medicine, it said.

“The PIC apprised his First Officer regarding his health condition and briefed him about the medicines he had consumed. He also instructed the first officer to carry out an auto-land and inform ATC to provide a doctor on ground after landing,” it said.

June 17, 2017

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