Air Force Says Pilots Use Stimulant on Long Flights

Associated Press

The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday that its pilots are allowed to take a stimulant to combat fatigue on long flights and sedatives to help them sleep later.

Responding to a report on West German television, the Air Force said that use of the drugs is barred for "normal, day-to-day training flights."

The statement comes amid growing concern about the safety of low-level training runs after a series of accidents here.

On Tuesday, West Germany's ARD television network reported that U.S. Air Force pilots assigned to West Germany take the dextroamphetamine Dexedrine to increase alertness while in flight.

ARD quoted an unidentified U.S. military officer as saying Air Force pilots routinely use Dexedrine "so that they are able to fly when they haven't gotten enough sleep or don't feel fit enough."

Pilots then take the sedative Seconal at night to counteract the effects of Dexedrine, the officer added.

In a statement from its headquarters in Ramstein, the Air Force stated "categorically" that its "pilots do not take medication for normal, day-to-day training flights."

The Air Force statement continued: "The use of stimulant and sedative medications is limited by regulation to flights in which the length or precise schedule of the mission presents a significant risk of flight safety due to fatigue.

"Dexedrine and Seconal use almost exclusively involves solo flights to or from the United States and overseas bases," it said.

Lt. Col. Ed Neunherz, spokesman at Ramstein, emphasized that a pilot would only use the sedative "once he's back on the ground."

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