Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flu Season

With all the diffent types of flu strains going around, it's important that pilots take even the slightest signs of illness seriously.  A simple way to check your physical and metal fitness for flight is the IMSAFE checklist.
  1. Illness - Are you sick? Running a fever? Allergies? Cold? ... or even worse, the flu. Even something as seemingly simple as seasonal allergies can wreak havoc on a pilot at altitude. 
  2. Medication  - Are you taking any medication for your illness? The FAA asks us to consider the underlying condition being treated, your reaction to the medication, your reaction to the medication, as well as the potential for adverse reactions.  Just because the medication does not warn against operating heavy machinery or just because your family practitioner says it's ok, does not necessarily mean that it is.  A list of accepted medications can be found on AOPA's webstite: FAA Accepted Medications Database.  When in doubt, ask your AME or simply don't fly.
  3. Stress - Are you stressed out about anything?  Do you have to take a final exam right after your flight?  Do you have a big budget meeting with the boss after you plan on returning from a flight?  
  4. Alcohol - When was your last alcoholic beverage?  Everyone should at least remember the "eight hours from bottle to throttle" rule. In addition to that though, the FAA, 14 CFR 91.17 to be exact, also says that no person may act as crewmember if  under the influence of alcohol or have a alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater in a blood or breath specimen.  The caveat here is the phrase "under the influence".  In my opinion that could mean just about anything.  If it's been more than 8 hours and you are certain you are less than 0.04 percent but have a miserable hangover, you are in my opinion still under the influence of alcohol.  Pilots should also be aware of the consequences for flying wile intoxicated.
  5. Fatigue - Are you tired?  Have you been up all night preparing for that final exam or that big budget meeting and are planning on to depart at 0800?  When was the last time you ate something?  If you're fatigued, don't fly.  
  6. Emotion - (Some resources say "Eating", however in my opinion "eating" belongs with fatigue.) This one can also go hand in hand with stress.  Did you just go through a terrible breakup or divorce?  Are you feeling depressed?  Is your self esteem really low?  If so, it's probably not a good idea to take command of an aircraft if you're mental health is in question.
If the answer to all of the above questions is "no", then great!  Go forth and put some holes in the sky.  If the answer is "yes" to any one of the checklist items, then at the very least get more information before you decide to fly off into the wild blue yonder or simply just don't go.  Following this simple, yet very effective, personal checklist can help you decide whether or not you are physically and metally healthy to take to the skies.

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