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Perception of Cockpit Environment Among Pilots on Commercial Aircraft

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Lindgren T, Andersson K, Norbäck D. Perception of cockpit environment among pilots on commercial aircraft. Aviat Space Environ Med 2006; 77:832–837.

Impaired cockpit environment may influence both well-being and performance of pilots. Objective: To study the perception of cockpit environment among pilots, in relation to demographic factors, and type of aircraft (B767–300, B737–600, DC9/21–41, MD 81/90 series). Methods: A standardized questionnaire was mailed to all pilots in one airline company; 81% participated (n = 622). All flights were non-smoking flights and the B767 was the only aircraft operated on intercontinental flights. The DC9 was the only aircraft without air recirculation. Multiple logistic regression analysis was applied, controlling for age, gender, smoking, perceived psychosocial work environment, and type of aircraft. Results: Younger age and a history of atopy and stress due to excess work were the main predictors of symptom and environmental perceptions. The most common symptoms were fatigue (14%), facial dermal (10%), and nasal symptoms (9%). Common complaints on cockpit environment were dry air (53%), dust and dirt (48%), noise (46%), and inadequate illumination (34%). Using the DC9 as a reference category, Boeing 767 pilots had more fatigue (OR 19.5; p < 0.001), throat symptoms (OR = 4.40; p < 0.05), complaints on dry air (OR = 2.93; p < 0.01), stuffy air (OR = 4.60; p < 0.01), static electricity (OR = 6.39; < 0.05), and dust (OR = 2.01; p < 0.05). Boeing 737 pilots had more complaints on noise (OR = 4.01; p < 0.001) and dust (OR = 1.81; p < 0.05). MD 81/90 pilots had more complaints on dry air (OR = 1.76; p < 0.05), dust (OR = 1.92; p < 0.05), and inadequate illumination (OR = 2.08; p < 0.05). Conclusion: Complaints on the cockpit environment were common and differed between different types of aircraft. This indicates a need to optimize the cockpit environment, e.g., increase the cleaning and relative air humidity.
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Keywords: aviation medicine; cockpit air quality; indoor air pollution; noise; occupational medicine; psychosocial work environment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-08-01

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