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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.


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.


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).


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.


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.

) With treatment you can avoid or delay

the onset of these chronic illnesses and prolong a
quality life.

f. Stress.


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.


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