Human Factors


Safety, Weather, Personal Health

Wednesday 7 June, 2017

What does it mean?


Responsible pilots are very familiar with pre-flight checklists to ensure that their aircraft is safe and ready to fly. It is equally important to determine that the pilot is physically fit and psychologically to enable the safest flight possible.

Thankfully, the IMSAFE checklist will help with that!


Before flying, pilots should think about recent or current illnesses that might affect flight. Even a minor illness suffered in day to day living can seriously degrade performance of many piloting tasks vital to safe flight. Illness can produce distracting symptoms that can impair judgement, memory, alertness and the ability to make calculations and although symptoms may be under adequate control with medication, the medication itself may decrease pilot performance.


Pilot performance can be seriously degraded by both prescribed and over the counter medications. Many medications such as strong pain relievers and cough-suppressants have primary effects that impair judgement, memory alertness, coordination, vision and the ability to make decisions. Others, such as antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, and agents to control motion sickness have side effects that may impair the same critical functions. Pilots should also be aware of the residual effects of both short-term and long-term use of medications. Even after medication has been stopped, the effects of it may remain in the body for some time.


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 judgement that unwarranted risks are taken, such as flying into deteriorating weather conditions. Stress and fatigue can be an extremely hazardous combination. 


Extensive research has provided a number of facts about the hazards of alcohol consumption and flying. As little as one ounce of liquor, one bottle of beer, or four ounces of wine can impair flying skills. Even after the body completely destroys a moderate amount of alcohol, a pilot can still be severely impaired for many hours by hangover. There is simply no way of increasing the breakdown of alcohol or alleviating hangover.


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 can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) but both can have the same detrimental effects.


Not only a proper diet but how long since you have eaten can have an effect on your performance. Not eating, however, can result in a lower blood sugar during a time when you as a pilot are under a great deal of stress or pressure. As the flight progresses the demand on your thinking ability and stress on your body is building. Not having eaten since the night before an early flight begins to take its toll as your judgement becomes impaired. A low blood sugar during the flight can have adverse effects at the most critical phase of flight operation, approach and landing.