Duty of notification and aviation safety—A study of fatal aviation accidents in the United States in 2015

Alpo Vuorio, Bruce Budowle, Antti Sajantila, Tanja Laukkala, Ilkka Junttila, Stein E. Kravik, Robin Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


After the Germanwings accident, the French Safety Investigation Authority (BEA) recommended that the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Community (EC) develop clear rules for the duty of notification process. Aeromedical practitioners (AMEs) face a dilemma when considering the duty of notification and conflicts between pilot privacy and public and third-party safety. When balancing accountability, knowledge of the duty of notification process, legislation and the clarification of a doctor’s own set of values should be assessed a priori. Relatively little is known of the magnitude of this problem in aviation safety. To address this, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) database was searched to identify fatal accidents during 2015 in the United States in which a deceased pilot used a prescribed medication or had a disease that potentially reduced pilot performance and was not reported to the AME. Altogether, 202 finalized accident reports with toxicology were available from (the year) 2015. In 5% (10/202) of these reports, the pilot had either a medication or a disease not reported to an AME which according to the accident investigation was causal to the fatal accident. In addition, the various approaches to duty of notification in aviation in New Zealand, Finland and Norway are discussed. The process of notification of authorities without a pilot’s express permission needs to be carried out by using a guidance protocol that works within legislation and professional responsibilities to address the pilot and the public, as well as the healthcare provider. Professional guidance defining this duty of notification is urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1258
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - 13 Jun 2018


  • Accountability
  • Aeromedical practitioners
  • Aviation
  • Duty of notification
  • Fatal accident
  • Safety


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