Role of Physical fitness and Performance in Aviation safety Essay

AbstractAviation safety largely depends upon the Pilots’, and Air Traffic Controllers’ physical , psychological fitness which decide their performance while on duty. Besides improved aircraft design and simulators applied in training enhance performance of the personnel concerned. Pilot have duty of care to the passengers and it is a legal requirement.

Pilots and Air Traffic controllers have to be continually monitored and remedial actions must be taken promptly.IntroductionAviation safety implies physical fitness of the personnel involved besides the airworthiness of the aircraft.  Working conditions in aviation career being life-threatening call for great mental alertness and physical and mental fitness.  Aviation includes civil aviation and military aviation. Both are equally stressful. If it is military, having to work in remote areas with minimal medical help will be the norm.  In both the cases, working hours can be erratic and extended shifts.

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The personnel are also easily exposed to contagious diseases. As such physical and mental alertness in aviation need not be over emphasized.Medical StandradsThe conditions that may be either impairments or diseases mentioned under each category are considered disqualifications for individuals working in an aviation environment.

. (See appendix 1)  The aviation personnel are expected to perform duties and provide services concerning aviation safety in relation to their vocation degree, qualifications, license and rating. They are generally flight crew members responsible for aircraft operation during flights, technical personnel for aircraft maintenance, repair and modification, air traffic controllers, flight dispatchers responsible for flight conditions and flight preparations, parachutists, cabin crew members other than flight crew, meteorological personnel, personnel responsible for preparation of charts, procedures to ensure optimal traffic flow and permitting over flights, regular flights and ground duty staff to handle aircraft, passengers, baggage, cargo and mail.Most important of all are the pilots who have duty of care to the accompanying crew personnel, passengers, other airspace users and general public that is rather a legal requirement as well.Aircraft flying is a psychomotor skill acquired by application of theoretical knowledge during training.  Individuals with specific aptitudes with constant practice of psychomotor skills can only maintain competence in the flying environment.  Fitness arises out of harmonization of physiological, psychological and emotional aspects for a pilot.  Flight safety is dependent on co-coordinated actions of all those involved like meteorological forecasting and flight planning personnel and regulatory authorities apart from the pilot without the inevitable conflicts between them.

Hence it is imperative to understand the limitations on human performance and its influence on flight safety. This calls for study of aviation physiology, aviation psychology and health maintenance. (Campbell R.D, Bagshaw M). A competent pilot needs to have a well-developed psychomotor proficiency, a pre-requisite to acquire a good handling skills. The following concepts have emerged as human factors in flying training.

  They are attitude development, stress management, risk management, flight deck management, crew co-ordination and psychomotor skills with the objective of achieving zero human error.Aviation physiologyAviation physiology is concerned with problems arising out of flight stress faced by both the pilots as well as passengers. Human physiology efficiency limit is up to 12000 feet of altitude above sea level. Oxygen content reduces as atmospheric pressure changes with increase in altitude and this affects the middle ear, sinuses, teeth, and G.I. tract.  Higher altitude causes whole range of complications like pain in the ear due to unequal pressure inside and outside the ear, rupturing of the tympanic membrane, pain due to maxillary sinusitis wrongly mistaken as toothache (referred pain), and pain caused by trapped gas inside tooth (barandontalgia).

Besides ear block leads to hearing acuity. In the same way the trapped gases create pain in the joints. Further associated problems are vestibular disorientation, spatial disorientation, and motion sickness. Due to repetitive handling of instruments, pilots are subjected to chronic fatigue aggravated by low oxygen pressures leading to disorienting visual illusions.  Peculiar to military pilots, is loss of peripheral vision field caused by loss of oxygenated blood to the brain as they have to make vertical climbs against increased gravitational forces which in effect force blood out of the circle of Willis carrying arterial blood to the brain.

  To counter this pilots have to carry out abdominal exercises and use air bladders (‘ g ‘ suits) to constrict the legs and abdomen so as to maintain upper-body blood flow against positive ‘g’ forces.  In dives, pilots experience negative ‘g’ forces that let blood into arterial circle of Willis and cerebral tissue. This causes ‘red out’ in pilots and pressures in the brain can cause strokes. While pilots have equipments and stamina to guard against positive ‘g’ forces, they have no safeguards against negative ‘g’ forces and are forced to do maneuvers such as loops, rolls, and turns which are meant to minimize ‘g’ force effects. (Bookrags)Aviation psychologyPersonality characteristics of pilots play a great role in aviation safety.  Some individuals are impulsive in action and they, rather than reflecting upon likely alternatives, act up on a course coming to their mind at first which may be a result of their resistance to authority and what L.F.Lester and D.

M.Bombaci (1984) called as  “macho” and “externally controlled” .Pilots with such a trait are likely to take unnecessary risks as their propensity is to think and  feel safe in the thoughts that they will never have accidents. The macho in them is propelled to prove themselves to others as a risk takers. They will think it is good luck in case of success and bad luck or others’ fault in case of failure. In essence, they lack a sense of owning  responsibility for their actions.  Pilots are subjected to stress such as employer related ones ranging from pay cuts, work furloughs, labor disputes, merger and acquisition of their airlines with another.

Fears related to possibility of airplane crash, failing in medical examination, possibility of a terrorist attack on the aircraft; anxiety related to a plane’s functioning also cannot be under estimated. Adverse weather conditions during flights, congested airspace around airports and physiological effects of high altitude in flight lead to stress.  Fatigue due to jet lag, lack of sleep, and emotional stress, can reduce a pilot’s concentration on multi-tasks associated with flying. Alcoholism in pilots is seriously viewed as its after effects will last even after they cease drinking.  Therefore Medical standards prescribed by the regulations include psychological factors also.

  The standards expect  that a pilot does not suffer from personality disorder. The disorder is identified by categorizing into three groups.  Group A consists of individuals who display cold, peculiar and erratic attitude. Group B includes individuals showing characteristics of being emotional, dramatic, and attention seeking.

Group C lists individuals who appear anxious, or frightened to others.Next to personality disorder, comes Psychosis. Psychosis means clinical manifestations such as schizophrenia in various degrees.

They are subjected to delusions of persecutions, thought  broadcasting, and the feeling of  being controlled by others or some external force. In extreme cases of perceptual disturbances, the individuals will hear voices and see things not actually existing.  The last personality disorder is the alcoholism and substance abuse. Other miscellaneous personality disorders looked for in a pilot are depression, suicidal tendency,PerformanceThe above brief outline on pilot physiology and psychology would show that pilot’s performance is crucial to aviation safety.

It is the generalization that two out of three aviation accidents are attributable to pilot’s or crew’s inappropriate response to a situation. Though the main system of aviation is the aircraft itself and the cockpit controls that contribute to the pilot’s or crew’s errors, the pilot or crew which is the subsystem also is responsible for performance determined by various factors ranging from their eating habits to emotional stress both past and current. Age has a definite impact on the performance of a pilot. Age after 60 is considered starting point of reduced performance of leading to incapacitation. . Even by the age 40 pilots start showing “a marked degradation of auditory sensitivity” (Garland J 1999).Flight SimulatorsFlight simulation affords experience of real-flight conditions very critical but may never be experienced in reality.

In simulations, the worst that could happen can be demonstrated and the pilot can be in preparedness for any such eventuality in  a real flight. This also gives a training environment and for initial qualification or requalification for pilots trainees.Equally important are the air traffic controllers’ performance and that of the maintenance staff to determine aviation safety.  The air traffic controllers are subjected to most of physical and psychological fitness requirements of pilots,Another aspect of aviation safety is the analysis of accidents and identification of causes and arriving at measures to prevent future recurrences.” An accident or mishap refers to an undesirable, unintentional, and unexpected event. However, used herein, an accident (or mishap) is not an unforeseeable random event, totally without cause, as is an act of God. Forensics presumes and seeks out underlying causes or contributing factors and assumes that future care could make such accidents preventable.” (Garland J 1999)ConclusionIt will now be clear that aviation safety is the amalgam of pilots’ and ATCs’ physical and psychological fitness, aircraft design and continuous monitoring of causes of   accidents or mishaps and preventive actions thereon.

Human factors play a great role in all these elements and must ensure ultimate safety of the millions of travelers  to whom the flight crew owe a duty of care.REFERENCESCampbell R D, Bagshaw M 2002 Human Performance and Limitations, Blackwell Publishinghttp://www.bookrags.

com/research/aviation-physiology-woes-01/ retrieved on 25 Sept 2006L.F. Lester and D.H. Bombaci, The relationship between personality and irrational judgment in civil pilots, Human Factors, 26 (5) (1984)Garland J Daniel 1999 Handbook of Aviation Human FactorsAPPENDIX 1A. VISION/HEARINGThe occupational significance of this area concerns the ability to see and be free of visualProblems The ability to see, hear, and comply with all crewmember instructions and commands is paramount.

The following is an example of an impairment(s) that may be disqualifying:BLINDNESSCURRENT CATARACTSPROLIFERATIVE RETINOPATHYRETINAL DETACHMENTGLAUCOMA (not adequately controlled or with significant visual field loss)DIMINISHED HEARING ABILITYThe inability to hear the whispered voice at three feet is a gross test of hearing ability and the inability to demonstrate this may be disqualifying- 2 -B. EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, THROAT, AND EQUILIBRIUMThe occupational significance is that distinct speech, odor detection, unimpaired sight, free breathing and the ability to see and maintain equilibrium are required. Any abnormalities ordiseases of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth or throat that permanently interfere with the ability toperform duties aboard NOAA aircraft may be disqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:MUTISMARTIFICLAL LARYNX OR ESOPHAGEAL SPEECHEXTREME MOTION SICKNESSC. PSYCHIATRIC CONDITIONSThe occupational significance of this area is that the presence of serious mental disease which can adversely affect critical judgment and perceptive patterns necessary for safe performance of required duties.

Any disorder which affects normal perceptual judgment and safe and acceptable behavior or if there is evidence of serious mental impairment may be disqualifying.Any diagnosis must be consistent with the diagnostic criteria as established by the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). The following are examples of impairments that may be disqualifying (must be based on established medical history or clinical diagnosis):The following are examples of impairments that may be disqualifying:SUBSTANCE ABUSE, SUBSTANCE DEPENDENCE AND RELATED SUBSTANCE USEDISORDERSSCHIZOPHRENIC DISORDERSPSYCHOTIC DISORDERS NOT ELSEWHERE CLASSIFIEDANXIETY DISORDERS, Including panic disordersDISSOCIANT DISORDERSDISORDERS OF IMULSE CONTROL – including intermittent and isolated explosive disorderPERSONALITY DISORDERSORGANIC BRAIN SYNDROMENOTE: Medication requirements, including psychotropic medication, will be evaluated on anindividual basis to ensure safe and efficient job performance as follows:Medication(s) (type and dosage requirements) potential drug side effects drug-druginteractions adverse drug reactions (ADR) drug toxicity and any medical complicationsassociated with long-term drug use- 3 -D. NERVOUS SYSTEMThe occupational significance area concerns the functioning of the central and peripheral nervous system. Dysfunction increases the probability of accidents and/or potential inability to perform a variety of tasks may be disqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:EPILEPSY OR CONVULSIVE DISORDERSMust have been seizure-free with or without medication and meet thestate requirements for operating a motor vehicleMULTIPLE SCLEROSISCEREBROVASCULAR DISEASE (includes aneurysms and vascular malfunctions)PARKINSONISME. CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEMThe occupational significance of this area concerns the efficiency of the vascular system for maintaining adequate blood flow, and the ability of the heart to provide the functional workcapacity to meet the oxygen demands of duties in pressurized and un-pressurized aircraft ataltitude.

Any condition which interferes with the vascular system’s normal functioning may bedisqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:ANEURYSMANGINACARDIOMYOPATHYCONGESTIVE HEART FAILURECORONARY ARTERY DISEASEUNCONTROLLED HYPERTENSIONORGANIC HEART DISEASEPERICARDITISMYOCARDITIS- 4 -F. CHEST AND RESPIRATORY SYSTEMThe occupational significance of this area concerns lung function, breathing capacity andfreedom from airway obstruction. This is a key area for performance in terms of the respiration needed to perform duties and to be free to move about in various environments.

Any disease or defect which significantly interferes with pulmonary function capacity may be disqualifying. Of special significance is the ability of individual to be able to function normally at altitudes between sea level and that altitude where supplemental oxygen is required.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:CHRONIC BRONCHITISCHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE ENTHYSEAUPNEUMONECTOMY (FEV1 less than 55%)PNELTMOTHORAXPULMONARY TUBERCULOSIS active or with significant lung destruction; positive tuberculin skin tests require full documentation of appropriate follow-upSARCOIDOSISG. ABDOMEN AND GASTROINTESTINAIL SYSTEMThe occupational significance of this area concerns a variety of gastrointestinal disorders that can affect performance of duties by imposing severe individual discomfort. Any functional disorders rendering the individual incapable of sustained attention to work tasks, i.e.

, chronic diarrhea and discomfort secondary to such disorders, may disqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:ACTIVE PEPTIC ULCER DISEASE not adequately controlled on medication)CROHN’S DISEASEG.I.

BLEEDINGFEMORAL HERNIA (not surgically repaired)INGUINAL HERNIA (not surgically repaired)PANCREATITIS- 5 -H. GENITOURINARY AND REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEMThe occupational significance of this area concerns renal failure and genitourinary dysfunction.Any functional disorders rendering the individual incapable of sustained attention to work tasks,i.e., urinary frequency and discomfort secondary to such disorders, may be disqualifying.Pregnancy will not disqualify the individual.

However, some training and assignments may be deferred pending ongoing medical finding until the individual is no longer pregnant.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:NEPHROSISPOLYCYSTIC KIDNEY DISEASERENAL FAILUREI. ENDOCRINE AND METABOLIC SYSTEMSThe occupational significance of this area concerns any abnormality of the endocrine system that affects job performance. Any excess or deficiency in hormonal production can produce metabolic disturbances affecting weight, stress adaptation, energy production, and a variety of symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, weakness, fatigue and collapse. Any condition affecting normal hormonal/metabolic functioning and response may be disqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:ADRENAL DYSFUNCTION (in the form of Addison’s Disease or Cushing’s syndrome)THYROID DISEASE (not controlled and unstable)PITUITARY DYSFUNCTIONDIABETES MELLITUS uncontrolledUncontrolled Insulin dependent diabetes is disqualifying (due to the dependence on food intake at regularly scheduled intervals and the unpredictable nature of time involved when carrying out the duties)J. HEMATOPOIETIC SYSTEMSThe occupational significance concerns chronic disorders affecting overall health in a disabling manner.

Any disorder which can lead to reduced capability to perform physical exertion or place the employee at undue risk may be disqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifying:SEVERE ANEMIATHRONMOCYTOPENIA OR CLOTTING DISORDERSHEMOPHILIA- 6 -K. COMMUNICABLE DISEASESThe occupational significance of the disease must be related to the individual’s ability toadequately function and safely perform the work tasks of the position. Any communicabledisease which directly affects individual performance and/or directly threatens the health andsafety of others is disqualifying.L.

MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEMThe occupational significance of this area concerns the mobility, stability, flexibility andstrength to perform duties efficiently in confined spaces with minimum risk of injury.Disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system which adversely affect the individualmeeting the basic movement, strength, flexibility, use of extremities and coordinatedbalance criteria may disqualifying.The following are examples of impairments which may be disqualifyingHERNIATED DISKLOSS IN MOTOR ABILITY FROM TENDON OR NERVE INJURYMAJOR EXTREMITY AMPUTATIONRHEUTMATOID AND OSTEOARTHRITIS RESULTING IN LOSS OF RANGE OFMOTION.;


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