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Pilot Fitness and Airplane Crashes

C. E. Ferree and G. Rand
Science
New Series, Vol. 87, No. 2252 (Feb. 25, 1938), pp. 189-193
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1664244
Page Count: 5
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Pilot Fitness and Airplane Crashes
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Abstract

With the growing conviction that the pilot is an important factor in the increasing number of airplane crashes, it seems that more attention should be paid to fitness in the selection of pilots and to making sure that they are fit for service at all times when they are called upon to render service. It is strange indeed that so much care is taken to see that the plane is in perfect condition before a flight is undertaken and so little attention is given to the condition of the pilot. While it is true that a human being can not be treated as a machine, we do know that he is subject to many disturbances from day to day that render him unfit for those services which require a supernormal fitness and proficiency and involve a responsibility for human life and safety. These disturbances can be shown by test. In the paper a very sensitive test for these disturbances in fitness is proposed and a convenient instrument for giving the test is briefly described. The test falls well within the technical capabilities of the average flight surgeon and should not require more than ten minutes to perform. It is recommended that the test should be given both immediately before and immediately after each flight. Reasons for this are: (1) The test before the flight can be used to prevent the aviator from going into the air when he is clearly and dangerously unfit for service. It is neither fair nor good public policy that a knowledge of his fitness should depend upon his own report. The responsibility for making such report should be taken out of his hands and consigned to a competent examiner. (2) The test at the end of the flight would indicate how well the aviator has stood the strain of his service. It would give valuable information as to his susceptibility to fatigue and make it possible to assign him to the length and kind of service he is capable of performing. It would also give a great deal of valuable general information as to the number of hours in the air and the amount of strain which aviators, taken collectively, can reasonably be expected to stand. (3) From the results of the tests, graphs or curves can be plotted which will give a splendid picture of the aviator's fitness, his endurance, his susceptibility to fatigue, the consistency of his service, etc. From these graphs it can also be readily seen when the aviator is becoming incapacitated for service through age or some other cause.

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