Here are some highlights from the latest New York Times article on the ruckus on the Jet Blue aircraft.
Two years ago, the F.A.A. relaxed its longstanding ban on psychiatric medications for pilots, saying that new drugs for depression had fewer side effects than older drugs. The agency now grants waivers allowing pilots to fly while taking Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa or Lexapro, and their generic equivalents.
The F.A.A.’s administrator at the time, J. Randolph Babbitt, said the agency was relaxing its ban because it was concerned that some pilots with depression were not being treated, or were being secretive about it. “We need to change the culture and remove the stigma associate with depression,” Mr. Babbitt said then.
But the F.A.A. said in an e-mail on Wednesday that since April 2010, less than one-half of 1 percent (0.016 percent or 20 out of 120,000 pilots who have a first-class medical certificate) have taken advantage of the F.A.A.’s policy. Pilots on commercial airliners are required to have a first-class certificate.
A 2006 study by the F.A.A. of post-mortem toxicological evaluations of 4,143 pilots killed in accidents from 1993 to 2003 found that 223 were using mood-altering drugs like antidepressants, according to The Associated Press. Only 14 of the pilots who tested positive for the drugs reported a psychological condition on their medical forms, and only one reported using a mood-altering drug. None of the pilots determined to have used neurological medications had reported that on their medical forms, the AP reported.