Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fit to fly? From F-22s to jumbo jets, real-time info on pilots needed, experts say

Date:
October 24, 2012
Source:
Mayo Clinic
Summary:
Anyone who has followed news coverage of a plane crash has probably heard of a black box, an onboard device analyzed for clues into a flight’s demise. What if there were a black box for pilots that could determine, in real time, whether they are fit to fly, helping to head off cognitive and physical failures that could take a jet down? Recent issues with the physically demanding F-22 fighter jet show it’s time for in-flight pilot monitoring, aerospace medicine physicians say.

Anyone who has followed news coverage of a plane crash has probably heard of a black box, an onboard device analyzed for clues into a flight's demise. What if there were a black box for pilots that could determine, in real time, whether they are fit to fly, helping to head off cognitive and physical failures that could take a jet down? Recent issues with the physically demanding F-22 fighter jet show it's time for in-flight pilot monitoring, Mayo Clinic and other aerospace medicine physicians say.

Their commentary is published this month in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. The authors are part of a panel that met to address whether the tools now used to assess whether a pilot is physically fit to take to the skies are still adequate. They're not, they concluded.

That is illustrated to dramatic effect by the Air Force's F-22, grounded after pilots had flight-related medical problems including cognitive abnormalities, the authors wrote. Common aeromedical problems, such as oxygen deprivation, spatial disorientation, fatigue and stress aren't assessed by standard tools, aren't in play during pre-flight physicals and can't be found in autopsies after a crash, they say.

For example, as a pilot's oxygen level drops, it can happen subtly, and several planes have been lost after a pilot passed out or otherwise became unable to make the right decisions, says co-author Lawrence Steinkraus, M.D., a Mayo Clinic aerospace medicine physician who served on the panel. If something on board alerted the pilot to that developing hypoxia and directed him or her to take specific actions, it could prevent a crash, he says.

Another common problem in fighter jets is gravitational-force-induced loss of consciousness, or G-LOC, Dr. Steinkraus says. There is a period of time before consciousness is lost when the pilot could be warned and told to intervene, or the aircraft could take action, if the right systems were in place, he says.

"Our argument is that the human being is the most important, the critical piece in aircraft performance, whether it's a commercial airliner, whether it's a fighter, you're talking about the human being, the brain, the decision maker, being the one who drives it," Dr. Steinkraus says. "If we have something go wrong with that central processing unit, we need to have some sort of backup or warning, and it would be wonderful if we could add that information flow back to the pilot."

Dr. Steinkraus is joined in the commentary by Mayo aerospace medicine physician Clayton Cowl, M.D.; Russell Rayman, M.D., of Aerospace Medical PLC in Alexandria, Va.; William Butler, M.D., of the Air Force Research Laboratory Institutional Review Board at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio; Royden Marsh, M.D., of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio; and William Ercoline, Ph.D., of the Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group in San Antonio.

A change in philosophy in the aviation community is needed for monitoring to catch on, Dr. Steinkraus says. Fighter pilots and others have resisted the idea as "Big Brotherish" and potentially punitive, and effective systems also have been lacking, he says.

However, the F-22 problems have pilots, the military and aerospace medicine experts alike hungry for answers, Dr. Steinkraus says. That, combined with the growth of on-board tracking in some modes of transportation, such as the use of GPS by trucking companies to monitor truck drivers, and advances Mayo Clinic and others are making in the technology, may be turning the tide in favor of it, he says.

"Acceptance is a big deal, and the smaller and easier we can make this and the more reliable, the easier it's going to be to get pushed out into the world and people will be willing to do it," Dr. Steinkraus says. "When the first cell phones came out they looked like giant bricks, and now you look at them and everyone's carrying them. It's the same thing with monitoring units."

A Mayo Clinic research team went to Mount Everest earlier this year to study how extreme altitude affects humans and the effectiveness of remote monitoring units under those conditions.

In-flight pilot monitoring also could help prevent physiological failure-related commercial jetliner crashes; pilot fatigue, for example, is a common problem, Dr. Steinkraus says. The concept also could head off medical emergency-related semi crashes and train disasters, he says.

Mayo Clinic has long been engaged in aviation research. During World War II, Mayo's Earl Wood, M.D., Ph.D., helped improve safety for pilots by developing a five-bladder G-suit, known as "speed jeans," to help pilots tolerate G-forces by pushing blood up toward the brain. Among recent projects, Mayo helped develop drop-down oxygen mask systems for higher-altitude jets.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Mayo Clinic. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lawrence W. Steinkraus, Russell B. Rayman, William P. Butler, Royden W. Marsh, William Ercoline, Clayton T. Cowl. Aeromedical Decision Making—It May Be Time for a Paradigm Change. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 2012; 83 (10): 1006 DOI: 10.3357/ASEM.3406.2012

Cite This Page:

Mayo Clinic. "Fit to fly? From F-22s to jumbo jets, real-time info on pilots needed, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024124629.htm>.
Mayo Clinic. (2012, October 24). Fit to fly? From F-22s to jumbo jets, real-time info on pilots needed, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024124629.htm
Mayo Clinic. "Fit to fly? From F-22s to jumbo jets, real-time info on pilots needed, experts say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024124629.htm (accessed August 19, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins