Padilla Law Group, LLP

Is your pilot fit to fly?

If you fly regularly, you may have found a way to overcome the natural nervousness many feel when boarding an airplane at San Diego International Airport. However, even if you take a flight only occasionally, your confidence in the pilot is often a comforting thought. After all, pilots are well trained and experienced before they take over in the cockpit.

What you may not realize is that the deciding factor in whether pilots are fit to fly is often the pilots themselves. Of course, pilots must undergo a routine medical exam every few years, but on a daily basis, the pilot determines if he or she is ready to take control of an aircraft, much like you decide if you are fit to drive a car or go to work.

A pilot's self-assessment

It is likely that you have gone to your job when you should have stayed home. Perhaps you had the flu or had been out too late the night before. Maybe you and your spouse were going through a difficult time, and your mind just wasn't on the job. For whatever reason, you were at your post and muddled through the day instead of staying home and taking care of yourself. However, if a pilot does this, hundreds of lives may be at risk.

Pilots are trained to do a self-assessment before a flight. This checklist evaluates any issues that may affect the pilot's ability to maneuver the plane or react to an emergency. The categories a pilot must consider include the following:

  • Any current or recent health problems, no matter how seemingly minor, that would prevent the pilot from receiving certification to fly
  • All medications, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, that could impair the pilot physically or mentally, or that may have residual side effects even if the pilot is no longer taking them
  • Physiological, psychological or environmental stress that may affect a pilot's performance
  • The consumption of alcohol within eight hours of a flight, the blood alcohol content of .04 or higher, or the effects of a hangover
  • Each pilot's personal response to fatigue or sleep deprivation
  • Emotional stability that a pilot is struggling to control

Since there is no way for you as a passenger to know whether your pilot has conducted a truthful assessment before takeoff, you may be at risk. A pilot who is unwell or otherwise unfit to fly places your life and the lives of your fellow passengers in danger and may be held directly responsible for any injury you suffer as a result.

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