In 2017, Forbes rated being a pilot as one of the most stressful jobs, however, if you speak to most pilots they will say flying is second nature to them, so the job itself isn’t stressful. What might be challenging to pilots however is keeping fit and healthy, to ensure they are up to the workload and responsibilities that come with the job. To ensure that they are fit to do their job to the very highest standards and maintain the safety of passengers and other aviation personnel, pilots must undergo a regular pilot medical to check their health and fitness levels meet the industry expected standards. With a busy schedule of flights and regular crossing of time zones, how can pilots stay fit for their medical?
Here we offer a few tips for new pilots and those awaiting a renewal medical examination.
How to get fit for your initial pilot medical
To prove you are mentallly and physically fit to fly, you’ll need to get an initial pilot medical, such as a Class 1 CAA medical certificate, ahead of starting your commercial pilot training. This needs to be carried out at an approved AeroMedical Centre (AeMC) such as Heathrow Medical.
An initial pilot medical tends to take longer than a renewal as it is the first time you will be assessed for your fitness to fly and many physical and mental aspects need to be taken into consideration, including eyesight, heart function, lung function, hearing, urine tests and blood tests.
In order to prepare for your medical examination you will need to:
- Have your full medical history available
- Bring any contact lenses or glasses that you currently wear to your appointment
- Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours prior to the test
To help get you physically fit for your initial pilot medical you could consider taking up a new sport in the months before your medical exam to help improve your fitness levels. This might include jogging, cycling or swimming. Regular exercise helps to improve your cardiovascular system, making it more efficient. It can also boost your mood, energy levels and sleep quality.
Another important preparation for the medical exam is to be honest when answering all the questions. Any false information could result in a delay in your medical certificate being issued whilst further investigations take place.
Tips to stay fit in between your renewal pilot medicals
If you have already passed your initial pilot medical or have been flying commercially for some time then you will be accustomed to undergoing a renewal medical to ensure you continue to stay fit and healthy. For pilots under 40 years of age, the renewal medical must be carried out every year, but for those over the age of 40 and who carry out single pilot commercial flights with passengers or those over the age of 60, the medical certificate needs to be renewed every 6 months.
As it can be hard to stay in a healthy routine when you are working strange hours in multiple time zones, it’s especially important that pilots do what they can to keep fit and healthy in between medicals, so here are a few tips that might help:
- Stay hydrated – flying can increase the risk of dehydration due to the high altitude, so if you are a pilot flying regularly, it’s really important to keep hydrated. A pilot should aim to consume at least sufficient water before, during and after a flight.
- Avoid alcohol before a flight – l you are not allowed to have any alcohol in your blood when flying, however due to the fact it can cause tiredness, sleep deprivation and dehydration it is recommended to abstain from drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours prior to a flight.
- Manage your off duty time – long duty hours and jet lag, not to mention stressful situations such as flying in bad weather, can all take their toll on a pilot’s health. For these reasons, it’s advisable for aviation professionals to find a good balance and plan their time effectively when off duty to include regular exercise. Plan your activities in advance so you don’t have to worry about it whilst you are at work and take the opportunity to sleep when you are off duty.
- Consume a healthy diet – even though it can be hard to eat healthily when you’re up in the air, sticking to a healthy diet when you are off duty and opting for the healthy options on stopovers will contribute to better energy levels, improved sleep quality and good overall health.
- Remain mobile where possible to help prevent DVT – deep vein thrombosis is where one or more blood clots form in your leg veins and flying can increase your risk because you spend a lot of time sitting in a confined space. Though it is more difficult for a pilot to move around during a flight, remaining mobile can help to minimise the risk.
If you need to book in for an initial or renewal CAA pilot medical please click here to find out more about the pilot medical examinations we offer and what you need to do to prepare.