Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine conference inaugurated
Indian Air Force has taken pilot-friendly policy steps to enhance its crew’s all-round health and competence in combat, Vice-Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal D.C. Kumaria said here on Friday. These include revising the rules relating to return of sick air crew, medically reducing ill-effects of long-haul sorties and improving nutrition and psychological health among pilots.
Air Marshal Kumaria was speaking at the inauguration of the three-day 52nd annual conference of the Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine hosted by Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM).
“In the past we focussed on operational and technical aspects of flight safety, it is time to look at the human aspects,” he told an international gathering of aviators, Air Force doctors and technical persons.
“We have a shortage of air crew to fully man our combat units and squadrons. We would like to see the maximum number of medically fit crew. The drive to get the unfit back into the cockpit at the earliest has started yielding results and revision of rules is nearing completion,” he said.
These measures would improve flight safety. About a third of flight accidents were due to human error, he later said. IAF was now open to allowing its squadron doctors to be among all operational units and also to fly alongside pilots to boost their morale.
Fighter pilots face physical and mental stress, depression, spatial disorientation, lack of oxygen at high altitudes, anti-gravity effects, dehydration and lack of sleep besides having to cope with modern devices such as night vision goggles and anti-gravity suits.
Long endurance flights such as Sukhoi-30 MkI, the imported C-130J transport plane and the MMRCA fighter (whose purchase is in the offing) increase these problems. IAM’s aeromedical specialists train the crew to overcome them.
“As we induct new generation fighter and transport aircraft of long duration sorties often with air to air refuelling, the operations branch has genuine concerns regarding the stress on crew,” Air Marshal Kumaria said.
Delivering the Air Marshal Subroto Mukherji Memorial Oration, the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam suggested starting a virtual reality laboratory at IAM to link doctors and pilots and using embedded technologies to monitor their health in flight.
Aero and biomedical scientists should predict maladies that may hit pilots besides developing suits and devices specifically for Indian pilots.
Air Marshal Kumaria said that trials were on to study performance- enhancing drugs during long haul flights. The outcome was awaited, he added.
The conference will discuss research at IAM and air force bases.
Senior officers of the IAF, Army and Navy are among the 250 delegates.