Why is this program necessary?

Evans revealed that 4.3% of the UK commercial pilot population had at least one episode of unfitness severe enough to warrant notification to the Authority during the 1-year period of the study (Evans, 2012). Further, Evans identified an increased risk of pilot incapacitation with age and that cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions caused the highest number of incapacitations during the study period. Evans concluded that prediction of sudden cardiac and vascular events by aviation regulators through screening for underlying coronary artery disease and predisposing factors for stroke is well founded—the increased risk of incapacitation from these disorders with age was clearly demonstrated (Evans, 2012).

Pilots who are examined and deemed fit for duty are unlikely to become incapacitated in the air. When an incapacitation does occur, the outcome is seldom an accident (Newman, 2007). However, the likelihood of a pilot suffering from an episode of unfitness at some point between medical examinations is greater than the likelihood of an accident as a result of pilot incapacitation. Moreover, the risk of these episodes of unfitness increase as the pilot ages, and the largest cause of these episodes of unfitness is cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight. Of these over 600 million adults were obese. Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese and 39% of adults aged 18 years and over (38% of men and 40% of women) were overweight in 2004. Of significant note, is that the worldwide prevalence of obesity has more than doubled between 1980 and 2014.

Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight (WHO). 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2014. Obesity is preventable. Obesity can lead to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions. Recent studies emphasize the impact of pilot unfitness for the civil aviation industry and the socioeconomic cost to both industry and individual pilots (Evans, 2012). Obesity among the world’s pilot population could become a cause of socio-economic damage to the industry. Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook projects that between 2015 and 2034, the world will require 558,000 new commercial airline pilots and 609,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians (Boeing, 2017). It is conceivable, that an increase in the rate of obesity, could result in fewer pilots due to a temporary or permanent disqualification of a medical certificate due to a medical event, and therefore exacerbate the issue of pilot supply in the future.

This preliminary study report examined the problem of obesity among the pilot population and explored the potential value of eliminating it or reducing the rate of increase of the problem, through the delivery of competency-based training. The results of the study showed that the target population could gain significant benefit (aviation shift workers) and the industry, cost-effectively through online education about the dangers of sedentary habits, high-energy, and low-nutrition diets.

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