Aviation

Aussie pilot grounded for alleged addiction to pain medication

A former Qantas pilot has been grounded by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) after failing to disclose the extent of his alleged addiction to pain medication.

Former Qantas second officer Nathaniel Whitehall was taking between 28 and 252 oxycodone tablets, 20 to 80 Panadeine Forte and 20 to 40 Tramadol tablets for back pain in any given month during the last three years of his employment, the tribunal heard.

Whitehall was stood down in late 2015 when fellow employees raised concerns but was able to return 10 months later, after undergoing back surgery and testing negative to drugs, the Australian reported.

However, he tested positive for opioids and benzodiazepines a month later, unbeknownst to his employer.

Police contacted the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in 2017 to express concerns Whitehall may be addicted to Oxycodone, prompting the authority to seek out his drug history for the past five years, which he failed to provide.

“We do not accept the applicant’s explanation for failing to disclose his OxyContin use. He is an intelligent man and he would have known that it was a matter of great relevance to his employer,” the ruling by AAT deputy president Ian Hanger and senior member Stephen Lewinsky said, according to the Australian.

“The policy of Qantas makes it clear the use of opioids is not compatible with safe flying duties, and that pilots using opioids would not be rostered for flying duty.”

Whitehall is suing CASA for defamation on the basis it shared a damning complaint from a neighbour to Qantas.

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