Grounding of Pilots: Medical Reasons and Recommendations for Prevention
van Drongelen, A.
BACKGROUND: This article presents the results of an EASA-commissioned study aimed at analyzing the medical causes of grounding of a broad European pilot population and recommending measures to reduce the risk of in-flight incapacitation in commercial air transport pilots. METHOD: European National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) were requested to provide data concerning the total number of pilots that were examined, their age and license category, number of unfit pilots, and the medical causes of each case of grounding. Diagnoses were classified according to the format and definitions laid down in Commission Regulation (EU) No. 1178/2011 Part Med. RESULTS: Analyzed were 82,435 cases assessed by 6 NAAs. Of these cases, 2.1% were assessed as unfit to fly. Frequent causes for grounding a pilot were cardiovascular (19%), psychiatric (11%), neurological (10%), and psychological (9%). Cardiovascular conditions were the most frequent cause for grounding in the older age groups, with 21% in the age 51–60 cohort, 28% in the age 61–65 cohort, and 48% in those beyond 65 yr. Psychiatric and psychological diagnoses were most frequent in the age 20–40 cohort. DISCUSSION: Cardiovascular conditions were the most frequent cause for grounding. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are associated with modifiable risk factors. Tackling these risk factors gives aeromedical examiners the opportunity to improve the health of pilots and reduce CVD-related flight safety risks by reducing the number of pilots at risk of in-flight incapacitation. The mandatory periodical medical examination of pilots provides an excellent framework for risk prevention and follow-up of preventive measures.
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Stratified risk assessment
Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 92 (92), 950-955