Sandpoint, ID (PressExposure) April 19, 2012 -- Recent headlines of medical chaos in the cockpits of some of the nation's commercial airplanes have caused the US Federation Aviation Administration (FAA) to consider closer monitoring of the health of the men and women at the helm of the aircraft that fly the nation's skies. Citing the recent in-flight death of a pilot who suffered a fatal heart attack and another that recently experienced a frightening emotional meltdown during another flight, the FAA considers cockpit turbulence a growing challenge that must be addressed to maintain optimum in-flight safety for all aboard. At this time, optimum pilot health, from flight school through to retirement, a must for airline safety, has been frequently a matter of self-reporting, a situation that leaves many pilot medical conditions unreported.
A mandatory part of pilot training at all licensed flight schools in the US, annual medical check-ups are conducted by physicians licensed by the FAA to evaluate pilot health. A part of the evaluation calls for the pilot to disclose any medical conditions he or she has experienced since the previous exam. Upon passing the medical exam, a pilot is issued a new or renewed Airmen Medical Certificate.
An FAA investigation revealed failure to disclose medical conditions that would disqualify the pilot for his medical certificate in various studies. One rather alarming toxicological finding was that almost 10% of the pilots involved in fatal accidents over a 10-year period were being treated for serious medical conditions that they failed to disclosed because to do so would jeopardize their Airmen Medical Certificates.
Speaking at the 46th Annual Southern Methodist University Air Law Symposium in Dallas, Texas, recently, Douglas H. Amster said, "With approximately 650,000 foreign and domestic pilots holding FAA Airmen Medical Certificates, if an average of 10 percent don't disclose medical conditions, up to 65,000 pilots could have undisclosed medical issues." Amster is affiliated with LeClairRyan, a national law firm of which he is a shareholder.
During a separate investigation of 40,000 licensed pilots conducted by the US Department of Transportation, 8% did not disclose medical conditions serious enough that the pilots were receiving Social Security Administration disability benefits for them. They were, in essence, "too sick to work, but not too sick to fly," according to Amster.