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Fitness for Flight

impaired for many hours by hangover. There is

simply no way of increasing the destruction of

alcohol or alleviating a hangover. Alcohol also

renders a pilot much more susceptible to disorienta-

tion and hypoxia.

2. A consistently high alcohol related fatal

aircraft accident rate serves to emphasize that alcohol

and flying are a potentially lethal combination. The

CFRs prohibit pilots from performing crewmember

duties within 8 hours after drinking any alcoholic

beverage or while under the influence of alcohol.

However, due to the slow destruction of alcohol, a

pilot may still be under influence 8 hours after

drinking a moderate amount of alcohol. Therefore, an

excellent rule is to allow at least 12 to 24 hours

between “bottle and throttle,” depending on the

amount of alcoholic beverage consumed.

e. Fatigue.

1. Fatigue continues to be one of the most

treacherous hazards to flight safety, as it may not be

apparent to a pilot until serious errors are made.

Fatigue is best described as either acute (short-term)

or chronic (long-term).

2. A normal occurrence of everyday living,

acute fatigue is the tiredness felt after long periods of

physical and mental strain, including strenuous

muscular effort, immobility, heavy mental workload,

strong emotional pressure, monotony, and lack of

sleep. Consequently, coordination and alertness, so

vital to safe pilot performance, can be reduced. Acute

fatigue is prevented by adequate rest and sleep, as

well as by regular exercise and proper nutrition.

3. Chronic fatigue occurs when there is not

enough time for full recovery between episodes of

acute fatigue. Performance continues to fall off, and

judgment becomes impaired so that unwarranted

risks may be taken. Recovery from chronic fatigue

requires a prolonged period of rest.


OSA is now recognized as an important preventable

factor identified in transportation accidents. OSA

interrupts the normal restorative sleep necessary for

normal functioning and is associated with chronic

illnesses such as hypertension, heart attack, stroke,

obesity, and diabetes. Symptoms include snoring,

excessive daytime sleepiness, intermittent prolonged

breathing pauses while sleeping, memory impair-

ment and lack of concentration. There are many

available treatments which can reverse the day time

symptoms and reduce the chance of an accident. OSA

can be easily treated. Most treatments are acceptable

for medical certification upon demonstrating effect-

ive treatment. If you have any symptoms described

above, or neck size over 17 inches in men or 16 inches

in women, or a body mass index greater than 30 you

should be evaluated for sleep apnea by a sleep

medicine specialist.



ulator.html) With treatment you can avoid or delay

the onset of these chronic illnesses and prolong a

quality life.

f. Stress.

1. Stress from the pressures of everyday living

can impair pilot performance, often in very subtle

ways. Difficulties, particularly at work, can occupy

thought processes enough to markedly decrease

alertness. Distraction can so interfere with judgment

that unwarranted risks are taken, such as flying into

deteriorating weather conditions to keep on schedule.

Stress and fatigue (see above) can be an extremely

hazardous combination.

2. Most pilots do not leave stress “on the

ground.” Therefore, when more than usual difficul-

ties are being experienced, a pilot should consider

delaying flight until these difficulties are satisfac-

torily resolved.

g. Emotion.

Certain emotionally upsetting events, including a

serious argument, death of a family member,

separation or divorce, loss of job, and financial

catastrophe, can render a pilot unable to fly an aircraft

safely. The emotions of anger, depression, and

anxiety from such events not only decrease alertness

but also may lead to taking risks that border on

self-destruction. Any pilot who experiences an

emotionally upsetting event should not fly until

satisfactorily recovered from it.

h. Personal Checklist. Aircraft accident statis-

tics show that pilots should be conducting preflight

checklists on themselves as well as their aircraft for

pilot impairment contributes to many more accidents

than failures of aircraft systems. A personal checklist,

which includes all of the categories of pilot

impairment as discussed in this section, that can be