Morphine CAP Pilot Lies, Crashes & Dies

Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol Cessna C-182R, N988SE

By NTSB | Final Report

[Editor’s Note: We received an anonymous tip regarding this crash. Thank you for your contribution. This CAP plane crash in Massachusetts was attributed to pilot error.]

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released the final report on the Middleborough, MA Civil Air Patrol aircraft accident that occurred on 25 May 1998. The original write-ups on the crash are invalidated by the NTSB findings of a Civil Air Patrol Senior Member who lied on his Aviation Medical application form and took morphine while in flight.

This fatal accident involved Civil Air Patrol senior members David J. LaCroix, 60, of Taunton and George A. Stedman Jr, 46, of Brockton Massachusetts flying a C-182R (Tail Number N988SE) during an instrument proficiency flight in conjunction with a flight clinic earlier that day. The flight was briefed to be a one-hour, IFR sortie. However, after approximately 30 minutes the IFR clearance was cancelled.

About 15 minutes later, the aircraft was observed flying a low approach to a private airport followed by a climbing right turn. During the climb, the bank increased and the aircraft descended into trees with no change in engine power. The aircraft was destroyed and both pilots were fatally injured.

The investigation revealed no mechanical failure or malfunction. The pilot in command (PIC) had been treated for migraine headaches since 1988 by his personal physician. The PIC was routinely taking about 100 tablets of Tylenol #3 (acetaminophen and codeine) per month. The pilot’s personal physician had later changed the prescription to a barbiturate named Fiorinal (butalbital, aspirin and caffeine).

A review of past applications for medical certificates revealed that under question 18a, “Medical History, Frequent or severe headaches”, the pilot had checked the NO block. In addition, question 19, “Visits to Health Professionals Within Last 3 Years”, showed only visits to the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). The visits to the doctor who prescribed the Fiorinal were not listed.

Toxicological tests, after the accident, revealed that the PIC had a toxic level of morphine in his blood. By examining the rate at which the morphine was metabolized, one can conclude that the drug was probably taken in flight, apparently for emergency relief from a migraine headache. The source of the morphine is unknown, as neither of the pilot’s physicians had prescribed it.

According to the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, a history or presence of migraine headaches, migraine equivalent, cluster headaches, chronic tension headache or conversion headaches would preclude the issuance of a medical certificate. The reason for this policy is that these types of headaches can be so painful as to be acutely incapacitating.

Additionally, these types of headaches often require medications for relief that can greatly diminish a pilot’s ability to control an aircraft. Impairment due to ingested morphine was definitely a factor in this pilot’s failure to maintain control of the aircraft during a VFR go-around.

Related Stories:
2 Killed In Mass. Crash Were Experienced Pilots, May 27, 1998

3 Comments on "Morphine CAP Pilot Lies, Crashes & Dies"

  1. CaliWingDing | July 9, 2017 at 08:47 | Reply

    Lying is very common in Civil Air Patrol Take a look at the Final NTSB report for the very recent Civil Air Patrol accident at Fallbrook Community Airpark in San Diego County.

    The CAP flight instructor reported that during a Civil Air Patrol evaluation flight, he decided to demonstrate a power off landing to the pilot being evaluated. He further reported that the airplane touched down within the first 400 feet of the 2,160-foot runway and reported that the brakes were ineffective during the landing roll.

    Investigators found video from a local flight school. The video showed the airplane still airborne while in the camera frame, which was about 700 feet past the runway threshold. The airplane subsequently moved out of camera view and was still airborne. The video did not show the airplane touch down on the runway. The right seat pilot witness stated in CAP safety system that the airplane touchdown zone was 1/2 to 2/3 down the runway, with 1000 feet of runway remaining, but the runway at Fallbrook is only 2160 feet long.

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a post-accident examination four days after the accident and found both brakes to be functional.

  2. LithiumFlyers | July 8, 2017 at 19:10 | Reply

    As Rob has pointed out, we have people in New England Region who are not qualified to be serving in the air. They get very angry when this fact is frankly pointed out to them, by anyone.

  3. CAPDrugPIC | July 6, 2017 at 04:23 | Reply

    Holy shit! There are two different pilots currently flying in my CAP wing (sorry cannot say which one but GLR) that we currently suspect are heavily medicated but too powerful to confront. A little bird suggested that they might be opioid addicts, but we cannot prove that. So tonite we searched your site to see if there was anything here about CAP Pilot drug use and found this story.

    LaCroix and Civil Air Patrol are both made out to be heroic in the newspaper articles, but then two years later when the investigation is finished he is revealed to be a liar who endangered the lives of others.

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