Thursday, May 1, 2008
Human Factors In Light Jet Aircraft
Are your mind and body ready?
| The lack of sleep, lack of proper diet and onset of mental fatigue is a setup for mistakes. Even little mistakes at 300 knots and 30,000 feet can add up to big trouble.|
And don’t fall prey to the “I’ll take care of it when I get there” attitude. Is indigestion causing that discomfort in your chest or could it be something else? Although having an FAA medical in your pocket might make you legal, it doesn’t automatically make you safe. I recommend a comprehensive physical exam at least every three years (and a nuclear stress test every five years for patients over 50). With a negative stress test result, there’s less than one half of 1% chance of a cardiac problem in the next five years. The only thing worse than having a cardiac problem is flying the flight levels not knowing you have a cardiac problem.
Assessing passengers for flight in a light jet is no different from assessing pilot preparedness. Although they’re not controlling the aircraft, no one needs an in-flight event to turn into a medical emergency or safety problem. Are the passengers anxious? Will they be allowed to smoke? Are they in good health? Do you have a portable oxygen bottle for emergency use? Is it reasonable to carry an automatic external defibrillator in the aircraft?
Even simple passenger issues like not having baby wipes for infants or airtight bags for dirty diapers can be a huge distraction in a small, pressurized cabin. Is there an adult who can supervise children in the back? There’s nothing more distracting than a couple of middle schoolers yakking during an instrument approach. Also, don’t forget about adjusting pressurization rates to prevent pain from barotraumas in the younger ones’ ears. That screaming can really cause the ILS crosshairs to go haywire!
Even basic issues like food and water accessibility need to be considered. And with a single pilot, are food and water within easy reach? This is another part of good preflight planning.
Ultimately, all pilots should have a plan for potential in-flight human factor issues. What airports are available for diversion? How can ATC help? If necessary, ask for priority handling or declare an emergency early. It’s not as much paperwork as common myth would have it, and anyway, paperwork really shouldn’t be a deterrent to declaring an emergency in a timely fashion.
Other medical resources are available via your radio or in-flight telephone. MedAire (www.medaire.com) is a subscription service, while Dial-a-Doc (www.dial-a-doc.com) puts you in contact with a board-certified physician in 90 seconds, 24/7.
I’ve long been a proponent of having a finger-tip pulse oximeter (www.flightstat.nonin.com) in the cabin for assessing oxygen levels in pilots and passengers. You should also keep a medical kit with common drugs in your light jet. Emergency drugs can be added to these kits as you deem necessary for your typical passenger load.
Most importantly, just because your new light jet can make a trip doesn’t mean it should make the trip. Pilots must also be prepared, mentally and physically, for the trip.
For articles on dealing with distraction, maintaining flight safety and other related topics, visit www.pilotjournal.com/proficiency.html.
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