Medical and toxicological factors in aircraft accidents.
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Medical and toxicological factors in aircraft accidents.

  • 1980-04-01

Filetype[PDF-770.97 KB]

  • English

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    • Abstract:
      A number of factors operating within pilots may impair their ability to operate aircraft in a safe manner, thus accounting for some of the 83 to 87 percent of pilot 'causes' of general aviation accidents. Aircraft accident investigators should be attuned to characteristics of the accident, witness statements, and autopsy and laboratory findings that may suggest partial or complete incapacitation in the pilot. Incapacitation may be brought on by a medical condition which may be revealed at autopsy or be inferred only from medical history. Spatial disorientation is a subjective evaluation only and a form of incapacitation rated as the third most frequent 'cause' of fatal general aviation accidents. Lack of oxygen--hypoxia--is a constant threat to incapacitate in aircraft operating at high altitudes. Toxicological factors such as alcohol, drugs, and gases (e.g., carbon monoxide) should always be sought in fatal aircraft accidents by obtaining blood, urine and other specimens for laboratory analyses. Aerial application pilots may be incapacitated by the poisonous materials they apply, especially the cholinesterase-inhibiting insecticides. The finding of therapeutic drugs in the blood or other specimens from accident victims, or of tablets, pills, etc., at the scene, may point to underlying medical conditions that may impair pilot performance. The author discusses these principles and illustrates them briefly with cases to make accident investigators and others aware of the importance of medical and toxicological factors in aircraft accidents.
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