On 4 March 2015 the Aerospace Medicine Group held their annual symposium and Stewart Named Lecture. Two members of the Aerospace Medicine Committee have kindly written a report on the day's events.
Aerospace Medicine Aspects of Sports and Recreational Flying
Symposium report by AVM Richard Broadbridge FRAeS, Ex-Chairman, RAeS Aerospace Medicine Group
The 2015 Aerospace Medicine Group Spring Conference covered aeromedical aspects of sports and recreational flying and was well attended. Speakers came from both aerospace medicine and sports flying participants and gave an interesting perspective from both aspects.
Wg Cdr Gus Cabre used his experience as an aviation medicine instructor to cover a wide range of aeromedical threats that he faces on his planned microlight flight around the world. Spatial disorientation featured heavily, but he also covered a number of other threats, especially climatic and those arising from long sectors. The weight limit that will apply to such a flight made a number of the audience nervous as this places limitations on the survival aids that can be carried on such a venture. Brig Paul Cain, a very experience parachutist and more recently wing suit flyer, provided a doctor’s perspective on his sport. He covered the risks associated with wing suits, including those arising from the considerably longer time spent in flight, but the majority of which arise from ground proximity!
In the second session we were treated to talks from highly experienced aviators. Andy Offer provided a fascinating insight into the considerations and risks associated with operating a commercial airline specializing in giving fare paying passengers experience of formation aerobatics. Whilst the aircraft operated by The Blades are highly agile, and the pilots are all experienced aerobatic pilots, it was apparent that limitations arise from the need to give all of the passengers a rewarding experience. There is nothing to be gained commercially from making them airsick or subjecting them to GLOC! The regulations applicable top such activity are, appropriately, quite significant. However, having addressed the regulatory barriers, especially in the changing world of EASA regulation, the barriers to entry for potential competitors are significant, making the existing business commercially viable. Andy’s talk was followed by an example of the other extreme. Paul Bonhomme gave a riveting presentation of Red Bull Air Racing from a pilot’s perspective. Of particular interest to the audience were the high g elements in which Paul showed a depth of understanding of the physiological aspects. Paul’s psychological model based on achieving the right balance between safety and the desire to win was particularly interesting – and his perspective on this undoubtedly contributes to his own safety.
The afternoon session started with a joint presentation on the world paramotor altitude attempt. Flt Lt Giles Fowler covered the preparation and planning for the event. Wg Cdr Nic Green then covered the aerospace medicine aspects needing to be addressed (notably a man portable oxygen system and thermal protection issues). Giles then described how these were applied given the significant weight restrictions. Although the fuel carried and the engine used ultimately prevented a new record being set Giles described how the lessons learned will be applied to a further attempt in 2015.
The final session by Stuart Mitchell from the CAA and Afandi Darlington from the AAIB covered aeromedical aspects of licensing sports flying and sports flying accidents. The regulator has to strike a balance between an individual’s right to take personal risk and public safety. Stuart presented this clearly, highlighting areas where it is necessary to apply specific limitations. Examples of sports flying accidents and the investigative processes required in order to establish their cause proved a most interesting conclusion to an enlightening conference. It was apparent that there are many aeromedical considerations with regard to sports and recreational flying and that most participants have a good understanding of them.
Stewart Named Lecture: From Take-Off to Final Destination - A History of Aviation Pathology
Lecture report by Wg Cdr Nicholas Green, Member, RAeS Aerospace Medicine Group
This year’s Stewart Lecture was presented by Wing Commander Graeme Maidment, Head of the Aviation Pathology Department at the RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine. In the lecture, Wing Commander Maidment took the audience through the development of aviation pathology, from some of the very earliest aviation accidents in the UK, via the history and origins of the Coroner Service and legal requirements, to the current contributions made by aviation pathology in reducing aviation Risk to Life.
Although the audience was aware that the aviation pathologist will be called upon to investigate medical causes of aircraft accidents, Wing Commander Maidment explained how very often their findings can also provide direct evidence of the accident sequence which will assist accident investigators (such as the findings of rapid decompression injury in the Comet disasters of the 1950s).
The lecture was a clearly delivered and fascinating insight into what has been learned from the dead after aircraft accidents, and how this information has helped to prevent future aircraft accidents. It was apparent that the role of the aviation pathologist continues to play a vital part in the air accident investigation process.