How do EU airlines test aircrew for drug use, specifically marijuana? Do they use hair tests, and how far back in time can they detect marijuana use?
I am not a pilot but you may find the following useful:
5 Drug and Alcohol Screening Programme
5.1 The testing process.
Trained staff should carry out screening tests usually by mouth swab, breath, blood, hair or urine sample. Tests are becoming simpler to administer and less invasive as the technology continues to improve. Minimal notice should be given of the intention to undertake random testing. The sample collection and testing process should be designed to ensure the result is reliable. If a positive result is found further (usually blood) testing should be undertaken. A confirmed positive result should be reported to the relevant Civil Aviation Authority regulatory authority; in the UK the report should be sent to the Medical Department of UK CAA for aviation licence holders.
It is easy to find companies whose business is testing UK pilots for drugs, for example AlphaBioLabs:
Protecting the aviation industry with drug and alcohol testing
We specialise in providing drug and alcohol testing to the aviation industry for both individuals who want to show that they are drug or alcohol-free and companies as part of their drug and alcohol testing policy.
Our aviation industry workplace testing consists of the following:
- Random drug and alcohol testing
- Pre-employment drug and alcohol screening
- For-cause drug and alcohol screening
- Post-incident drug and alcohol testing
- Abstinence monitoring
We have a team of fully trained sample collectors in your area, ready to collect your drug and/or alcohol samples from your place of work or any safe environment.
Hair drug testing
Hair drug testing is a form of workplace drug testing that can be used to support other methods such as oral fluid and urine testing.
It can be particularly useful for a more comprehensive overview of a person’s drug use as it is known as a ‘wide-window’ form of testing, which can determine a history of drug intake for up to 12 months.
A different lab reports
British Airways, for example, tests urine for drugs and breath for alcohol. Workers can be randomly tested in the first six months of employment or if returning to work after rehabilitation, and can also be tested if it is suspected that drugs or alcohol may have caused an accident, or if they are suspected of being under the influence while working.
Relevant incidents might include things like this:
Air Astana, which is part-owned by UK firm BAE Systems, said it fired the pilot immediately and had a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol.
In a statement to Reuters it said: “The airline regularly tests its crews for alcohol and drugs using a random sampling method."
I'm not a pilot, but I'm a drug testing lab engineer and can provide some info. There is the EU airline drug testing for aircrews is conducted in accordance with the EASA’s regulations.
On 24 March 2015, a tragic accident sparked the adoption of Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/1042 by the European Commission. This regulation requires alcohol and other psychoactive substances testing for flight crew and cabin crew members on aircraft using aerodromes in Member States - an obligation that has been applicable since 14 February 2021.
Pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, and post-accident tests are all required by the EASA to ensure safety while flying. The most common form of drug test used is urine testing. However, hair tests can be performed too but only on occasion. Hair testing can detect marijuana use up to 90 days after consumption, that is why it is used only if it is needed to check a pilot for long-term drug consumption. There is provided pilot drug testing at Claritas Genomics, if you want to know what you might be up to, the up-to-date article can come in handy.