Military Aviation Medicine
Volanti Subvenimus - We Support the Flyer!
Militaries around the world train and employ specialized physicians who uphold aeromedical standards and ensure all aircrew and controllers are fit for flight. In the United States, these unique doctors are called flight surgeons.
Although this misnomer (flight surgeons are seldom credentialed surgeons) dates back to the very origin of the profession during WWI, the profession is anything but static. Keeping pace with today’s high-tempo & complex military mission, the competent flight surgeon is expected to fully appreciate how new technologies and mission demands will affect the health and fitness of his patients. In addition to serving as primary care providers for aircrew, controllers, other specialized career fields and their families; the active duty flight doc fulfills a variety of other roles not typical for a medical doctor.
In addition to spending time in the flight medicine clinic diagnosing and treating routine disease and injury, flight surgeons also split their time fulfilling roles as rated aircrew, public health official, occupational medicine liaison, and human factors expert. As clinical physicians, military flight docs see patients like other primary care providers, but must also apply their knowledge of aeromedical science to their patients’ complaints. As rated aircrew, since WWII flight surgeons have been expected to spend time flying and conducting operational missions with their active duty patients in order to better understand the physiological stressors and hazards they face. As public health providers, flight surgeons assist with inspections of local food vendors and also ensure potability of water. As occupational and preventive medicine liaisons, flight surgeons routinely visit various industrial shops in an attempt to identify and subsequently address occupational hazards before injury occurs. Lastly, as human factors experts and safety officers, military flight surgeons are frequently consulted to serve on mishap investigation boards and brief aircrew regarding pertinent aeromedical topics.
Pilot Education: LASER Exposure & Eye Injury
LASER exposure continues to be an increasingly frequent problem in both military and civilian aviation. Typically, these exposures arise from people pointing green commercial LASERs directly at flying aircraft. The FAA has been tracking the number of LASER incidents since 2005. This number has been increasing every[...Click Below to Read More]read more
LASER Eye Injuries in Aircrew
A separate post written as a resource for pilots and aircrew on LASER exposure/eye injury can be found here. The crux of aerospace medicine is the identification of medical conditions that lead to sudden and unanticipated incapacitation of the flyer. Screening for disease is performed during the initial flight[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Top Knife – Fighter Pilot Tactics for Flight Docs
This article discusses an awesome opportunity specifically designed for USAF flight surgeons to gain a firmer understanding on fighter and combat aircraft operations. This course is a good use of time for any military flight surgeon, but is an absolute necessity for any flight doc assigned to a fighter squadron,[...Click Below to Read More]read more
In Flight Emergency – Cabin Pressure & Hypoxia
I was recently in Estonia for a NATO military training exercise. Flying in the back seat of an F-16D (two seater), I was ‘gently’ reminded of the importance of human factors in flight and the constant, inherent danger in combat aviation. Even in the training environment, significant risks and aeromedical stressors[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Ground Collision Avoidance Technology
On a recent flight in a Block 40 F-16 with our squadron’s weapons officer I was introduced to the new pilot-activated recovery system (PARS). Starting at about 20,000 feet (FL 200) we rolled inverted and started a rapid 30 degree nose-low dive. The pilot pressed a button initiating the PARS. Immediately the[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Aviation Podcast “Slipstream Radio” Features GFM
In January 2014, F-22 Raptor driver and creator of TallyOne, Rob “Shotz” Burgon partnered with commercial aviator Brent Owens of iFlyBlog to create a unique podcast for aviation enthusiasts called Slipstream Radio. This past week, Slipstream Radio discusses topics relevant to aviation medicine and featured GoFlightMedicine during an interview with GFM creator, Rocky “Apollo”[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Why do Flight Surgeons Fly?
In the United States, Flight Surgeon is the title used by the military (and NASA) to designate a medical doctor who has completed specialized training in aerospace medicine and has been awarded an aeronautical rating. This contrasts with the term Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) used by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). AME’s lack the flying requirement that flight[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Dietary Supplements in Aircrew
“Ok, I got this nailed- Vitamin M, dip, coffee, Jack & Coke. That’s what makes a fighter pilot” ~ Anonymous Fighter Pilot Although this may be the typical formula that fighter pilots from decades past relied on for optimal performance, the modern combat aviator tends to take a much more sophisticated[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Incentive & Familiarization Flights in Military Fighter Jets
Many times large number of incentive and familiarization flights are offered to maintenance and operational support personnel during temporary duty (TDY) deployments. Flight surgeons play a crucial role in this process educating and medically clearing potential candidates. In this setting, the flight surgeon may be without their standard materials, computer,[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR’s) are considered a threat to aviators, flight crews and frequent air travelers. This risk to astronauts is even greater (possibly even lethal) and continues to pose a significant obstacle to long expeditions into outer space. Cosmic radiation is comprised of high-energy subatomic particles from all of the natural elements[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Tarnak Farm – Reckless Pilots, Speed, or Fog of War?
On 17 April 2002, as the Afghanistan conflict was escalating, a friendly-fire incident swept the headlines. An American F-16 being flown by an Air National Guard pilot mistook Canadians training in a live fire drill for Taliban insurgents and dropped a 500-pound laser guided bomb (LGB) directly on target. The result[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Stimulants & Sleep Aids in Military Aviation
Chemical stimulants and sleeping aids have a long history of use in improving performance in military personnel. The first pharmacologic stimulant, Amphetamine, became available by prescription in 1937. It was used in WWII by the Japanese and Germans of the Axis Powers and the British on the Allied side. The American military[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Ejection Seat Safety & Reliability Improvement Program
Legislators of the Armed Services Committee recently published comments on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. This federal law is passed every year and specifies the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense. The 2014 law authorized a spending of $607 billion. It should be[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Combat Stress Response & Tactical Breathing
I recently finished the book, On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace, by former Army Ranger turned psychologist, Lt Col (ret.) Dave Grossman. Although I have some concerns on how rigorous the science is behind most of the books precepts, the general concepts[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Combating Fighter Pilot Fatigue
Pilot fatigue is a constant threat to all aircrew. There are particular risk factors for those flying high-performance fighter platforms. Flying high-G sorties is physically exhausting. This is an tiring business and even well-rested pilots will find themselves fatigued from the physical and mental demands of combat flight operations. In order[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Be a Better G-Monster: The Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM)
This installment will review the effect of G’s on the human body, the Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM) and how you as the modern fighter pilot can decrease the likelihood of being the victim of a G-LOC (G-induced loss of consciousness). With the introduction of the new full-coverage G-suit, we expect[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Aeromedical Standards & Fitness for Flight
Aerospace Medicine is essentially a branch of occupational medicine. Unlike traditional medical disciplines where a patient in a normal environment experiences abnormal diseases and pathology, occupational medicine often provides medical services to patients of normal health and physiology in an abnormal environment. There are a variety of industries in which workers[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Hypoxia in Aviation
Before becoming a flight doc, I often felt skeptical as the flight attendant showcased what appeared to be a yellow Dixie cup connected to an empty IV bag prior to takeoff on commercial airliners. This darting glance wavered as my attention faded. Then, it was back to a few precious final minutes[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Decompression Illness in Aviation
Before English chemist, William Henry, took his own life in 1836, he discovered a simple physics law to explain how gas behaves in solution. This gas law, now appropriately known as Henry’s Law, together with Boyle’s Law, form the basis of the pathophysiology and treatment for Decompression Illness. Henry’s Law[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Pulling G’s – The Effects of G-Forces on the Human Body
“After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank thea, under the shade of some apple trees…he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple,[...Click Below to Read More]read more
Spatial disorientation (commonly referred to as Spatial-D) is the inability to determine one’s position, location, and motion relative to their environment. Spatial-D along with G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) are two of the most common causes of fatality from human factors in military aviation. Spatial-D regularly affects pilots in all aircraft, whereas only[...Click Below to Read More]read more