Flying High

In 2006, Dr. David Newman delivered his seminal study of alcohol related accidents in Australia from the years 1975 to 2006.[1] While the number of alcohol related accidents was not as high as that recorded elsewhere, his executive summary clearly stated, where AOD’s were present, “the related accident and fatality rates were high.” He also maintained “The planned introduction of a mandatory drug and alcohol testing program into the Australian civil aviation industry will provide a more prescriptive approach to the issue of drug and alcohol use in pilots. Education and training also remain important elements of an overall approach to reducing the significant impact of drug and alcohol use on flight safety.”[2]

89% of drug and alcohol related incidents resulted in accidents. And 69% of these resulted in fatalities. [3]

One of the most concerning aviation accidents in recent times involving drugs and alcohol occurred in Northern Queensland in 2002. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s toxicology report on the pilot in that accident,  revealed the presence of alcohol, Panadeine (codeine) and THC in the blood– all of which may have been detected had testing been in operation at the time.[4] The pilot had only had seven hours sleep prior to flying, and had consumed the Panadeine and alcohol the night before departure.

In 2008, legislation was finally introduced to ensure drug-testing of all SSAA’s (Safety Sensitive Aviation Activities) in Australia. Pilots, baggage handlers, cabin crew, air traffic controllers and mechanics – in fact just about anyone working in and around aeroplanes, was finally made to undertake random testing as part of a DAMP or Drug and Alcohol Management Program in the aviation industry.[5] In its complete form, the CASA approach to drug and alcohol is broad-based and holistic and involves:

  • “pre-employment drug and alcohol screening for all safety sensitive personnel
  • drug and alcohol testing for pre-employment and accident and incident testing for safety sensitive personnel, and testing on the grounds of reasonable suspicion for the safety of all staff
  • an education program for all staff, on the impact of drugs and alcohol on personal health and work performance, and specified legislative training and testing requirements for safety sensitive personnel
  • authorized and trained senior personnel to administer key decision points contained within the program
  • a comprehensive intervention and return to work program.”[6]

All three modes of testing procedure – saliva, urine and breath testing – were approved with the view that each could form a component part of a successful drug and alcohol management program for members of the aviation industry.

Each of these testing methods is supplied to heavy industry by CMM Technology, whose high quality products accord with Australian Standards. Their products range from the Wall Mounted Alcolizer Breathalyser and the Wall Mounted Breathalyser BTA-30-DAS-1 through to more portable versions such as the Alcosense Precision Breathalyser and the Alert J5 Personal Breathalyser. More cost-effective saliva testing products such as the DrugWipe5+ and The Oraline Saliva Drug Test are also available. Accompanying Pre-Screening Forms and Intermediary Chain of Custody forms are also supplied by CMM Technology.

Contact CMM Technology on 08 9204 2500 for advice on testing products that suit your needs


[1] Newman, Dr D. G.  Accidents and Incidents Involving Alcohol and Drugs in Australian Civil Aviation 1 January 1975 to 31 March 2006. June 2006. Australian Safety Transport Bureau, Australian Government.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jean, P. Pilot took alcohol and drugs before fatal crash. The Age Newspaper. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/03/18/1079199343514.html?from=storyrhs

5 Notice of Final Rule Making. Drug and Alcohol Management Plans and Testing. Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Part 99. SEPT 2008.

[6] CASA Occupational Health and Safety.  http://www.casa.gov.au/scripts/nc.dll?WCMS:STANDARD:1701626212:pc=PC_93475#drugs

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