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Aeromedical Hazard Comparison of FAA Medically Certified Third-Class and Medically Uncertified Pilots

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BACKGROUND: Since 2004, in the United States, light sport aircraft (LSA) and some aircraft with standard airworthiness certificates can be operated for recreational purposes with a valid state driver’s license rather than a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-issued aeromedical certificate. There have been recent efforts to allow operation of much larger, heavier, faster, and more complex aircraft without requiring a medical certificate. The primary objective of this research was to compare hazards to flight safety identified in fatally injured pilots required to possess a valid FAA third-class medical certificate to hazards in fatally injured pilots who were not required to possess a valid medical certificate.

METHODS: A search of all fatal U.S. aircraft accidents in the FAA Medical ANalysis and TRAcking (MANTRA) registry between January 1, 2011, and April 30, 2014, identified 1084 individuals. A review of accident pilots’ medical, autopsy, and toxicological data was conducted. After applying exclusion criteria, 467 pilots remained, including 403 medically certified and 64 medically uncertified pilots.

RESULTS: A significant difference was found in a surrogate measure for risk between medically certified and uncertified pilots (25% vs. 59%). This difference remained significant after adjustment for age. No significant difference was found in the proportions of hazards identified on toxicological review.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study suggest that the risk of an adverse medical event is reduced in pilots required to possess a valid medical certificate.

Ricaurte EM, Mills WD, DeJohn CA, Laverde-Lopez MC, Porras-Sanchez DF. Aeromedical hazard comparison of FAA medically certified third-class and medically uncertified pilots. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(7):618–621.
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Keywords: accident; autopsy; certified pilots; civilian operations; hazards; light sport pilots; pathological; toxicological; uncertified pilots

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Publication date: 2016-07-01

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  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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