Neck pain in fighter pilots has been studied by several air forces and found to be relatively common. The aim of this project was to study the incidence, characteristics, possible associated causative factors, and operational impact of neck pain in Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) fighter pilots.
The study was designed as a retrospective anonymous questionnaire survey, collecting data on age, aircraft type, flying hours, and physical activity. Any experience of spinal symptoms related to flying was included, as well as detailed questions on operational factors. Estimates regarding how neck symptoms influenced flying performance were established using visual analogue scales (VAS). Pilots also described their own in-flight techniques to avoid neck symptoms.
Of respondents, 72% had experienced neck pain in relation to flying, while 35% had experienced back pain. Of these episodes, 93% were related to neck rotation. Mean G level for acute incidents of in-flight pain was 6.7 G. Total training time is on average higher in pilots who have no neck pain compared to those who have had neck pain events in the last 12 mo; the mean training time being 3.9 h in the "no pain-group" vs. 2.7 h in the "pain group". "Checking six" was the most affected in-flight function.
New technologies such as night-vision goggles and helmet-mounted displays increase helmet weight, thereby adding a higher strain to the neck even in moderate G environments. More research on specific prevention strategies is warranted in order to improve the in-flight working environment of fighter pilots.
INTRODUCTION: The medical requirements for commercial pilots are issued by the ICAO and the European aviation safety organization JAA. In Norway, the Aeromedical Section of the Civil Aviation Authority assesses whether pilots are medically fit to fly. This study presents the reasons for medical disqualification among the Norwegian commercial pilot population during a 20-yr period. METHODS: Files on all disqualified commercial pilots were reviewed and subdivided into age groups and diagnostic categories. Different disqualification rates were calculated. RESULTS: From the study population of 48,229 pilot-years, 275 pilots were permanently grounded, which gives a 20-yr average disqualification rate of 5.7 per 1,000 pilot-years. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: For cardiovascular diseases the disqualification rate was lower after 1997 than before, which is explained by improved treatment and more lenient requirements. In the diagnostic categories, neurology, musculoskeletal, and psychiatric diseases, the disqualification rate increased after 1997. This fact is probably not attributed to more stringent health requirements, but possibly to the attitudes of the pilots, who have become more critical with respect to their subjective perception of their working environment and psychosocial factors.
The aim of this study was to quantify causes of medical disqualification (groundings) of Norwegian commercial pilots for the period 2006-2010, and to compare our findings with former Norwegian studies on the subject to reveal possible changes in the disease spectrum over the last decades. We compared our data with previous studies for the periods 1982-1997 and 1997-2001, respectively.
The material was collected from the aeromedical section's archive. Files on all grounded pilots have been reviewed and classified by age group and diagnosis and grounding rates have been calculated.
From the study population comprising 12,552 pilot-years for the years 2006-2010 inclusive, 85 pilots were permanently grounded, i.e., an average grounding rate of 6.8 per 1000 pilot-years.
Compared with previous data there is a significant decrease in the disqualification rate due to cardiovascular conditions, while the disqualification rates due to ear, nose, and throat conditions and neurological conditions have both increased significantly.Høva JK, Thorheim L, Wagstaff AS. Medical reasons for loss of license in Norwegian professional pilots. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(2):146-149.
The Swedish Air Force (SwAF) conducted a study in 2010 to harmonize portrayal of aeronautical info (AI) on SwAF charts with NATO standards. A mismatch was found concerning vertical obstructions (VO). Norway regarded Sweden's existing symbology as a way to solve the problem of overcrowded air charts and the two countries started to cooperate. The result of this development was a new set of symbology for obstacles. The aim of this study was to test the readability of the new obstacle and power line symbols compared to the old symbols. We also wished to assess the readability in NVG illumination conditions, particularly regarding the new symbols compared to the old.
In a randomized controlled study design, 21 volunteer military pilots from the Norwegian and Swedish Air Force were asked to perform tracking and chart-reading tests. The chart-reading test scored both errors and readability using a predefined score index. Subjective scoring was also done at the end of the test day.
Overall response time improved by approximately 20% using the new symbology and error rate decreased by approximately 30-90% where statistically significant differences were found.
The tracking test turned out to be too difficult due to several factors in the experimental design. Even though some caution should be shown in drawing conclusions from this study, the general trends seem well supported with the number of aircrew subjects we were able to recruit.Wagstaff AS, Larsen T. Readability of new aviation chart symbology in day and NVG reading conditions. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(11):978-984.