PILOT COMPETENCE (Part 2)
Acknowledgements: CAA Skyway Code 2017
A large number of aviation accidents identify pilot fatigue or medical factors as contributory. Pilots often get away with flying in a less than optimal physical and mental condition, but it can have a critical impact in the event of an emergency or a more insidious issue that an alert pilot would stand more chance of surviving.
‘IM SAFE’ is a common mnemonic for self- assessing fitness before flight:
- Illness – are you suffering from any?
- Medication – are you taking any?
- Stress – are you suffering from any?
- Alcohol – when did you last drink?
- Fatigue – are you well rested?
- Eating – have you eaten recently?
- Even common ailments such as colds or medication for common issues such as hay-fever can have an effect on your fitness to fly – check with an AME if you are unsure. They may be able to give you advice on which medications are considered safe for flying.
- While flying is often a good way to get away from the stress of modern day life, this is best done on a calm summer’s day with plenty of time to enjoy yourself – not on a flight that might itself create stress, such as a long cross country in marginal weather with passengers.
- If you are fatigued due to work or other issues, give yourself plenty of time to rest before flying – an early start after a late-night working should be avoided. Also, be aware of the cumulative effect of fatigue – a long period of poor sleep will not be overcome in a single night.
- Sometimes the excitement of a challenging flight can make it difficult to sleep the night before, especially if you are uncertain of the weather. Taking as many decisions as possible the night before about the destination and weather may help you sleep better.
- It is important to eat well before flying. This will keep up your blood sugar level up and help you concentrate.
- You should not fly within at least 8 hours of consuming any alcohol and must not fly with more than 20 milligrams per 100 ml of blood. The legal alcohol limit in the UK for aviation is a quarter of that for driving in England and Wales.
- While Flying:
- During a long day’s flying it is often easy to neglect lunch – remember to take something with you to eat and drink if you will not be able to have a sit down meal. Staying hydrated is important.
- Oxygen should be used above 10,000 ft. Be aware that the effects of hypoxia can occur at lower altitudes, especially for smokers. At night use of oxygen above 5,000 feet can improve night vision.
- Dress appropriately for the aircraft and time of year. Heater failures in GA aircraft are not unknown and during the winter this will be very unpleasant if you do not have suitable clothing.