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How unhealthy is flying/Being a Commercial Pilot?

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How unhealthy is flying/Being a Commercial Pilot?

Old 14th Mar 2018, 08:38
  #21 (permalink)  
 
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There are worse jobs out there that can lead to an early death or poor health.
I'll drink (moderately ) to that.
Age 16: came v close to machine tool entering back of head and removing face (which part, TBH, I wouldn't have felt).
Age 19: stepped out of marine Diesel crankcase just as engineer on other side of engine blew it over on starting air.
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Old 14th Mar 2018, 09:55
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Unhealthy

In the 80s I tried to stop our company from extending retirement age to 58 and got a bunch of mortality figures. The only surprising bit was that long haul was statistically healthier than short haul legacy.
I have had a host of illness, often being told that it was psychosomatic purely because they didn't find the cause.
My first lot was in the 70s when I was given a week to live. I believe this was aerotoxic syndrome due to several significant smoke incidents. For the first time I was told I was a nervous pilot and should resign.
My second lot was probally due to Salmonella from Karachi but never confirmed. I collapsed after landing in Jeddah.
My third lot lasted 18 months and was only cured by a double dose of the strongest sulphonomide which made me allergic to the drug. A 23 year old hostess on my crew died. At a guess it was a bacterial lung infection from a west African pax. Again I was told that it was psychosomatic.
The next four years was relatively healthy until I went onto the DC10. Two lots of malaria, a year of diarrhoea passing blood much of the time, extended visits to tropical diseases, stress ECG with a resus team in case my ticker stopped. Lots of special diets and back to the psychosomatic cop out.Migraines on extra long flights.
Given a special return to short haul and then command. Things got better especially as I took a couple of months unpaid leave a year but after a head injury and breakdown I lost my license.
At the time of my problems on the DC10 we had a lot of loss of licenses due to mental health and several crew members with stroke symptoms. Another few died from brain tumours and heart attacks.
My views.
I believe both of my major problems were due to neurotoxins. The first from air conditioning smoke and the second Larium but I'm not ruling out aerotoxic.
A lot of our passengers were from exotic destinations and brought with them exotic bacteria, it is not very different to east London where one of my grand children is in and out of hospital with unknown chest problems.
So we sit in a tube breathing in exhaled air from all over the world although if you fly loco you don't have that problem.
My long haul migraines stopped except when I flew flights of more than five hours mainly around 13,000ft in the alps without oxygen. Our dc10 air quality was a particular problem because most of our crossings were way north and polar plus our engineers would turn off packs to save fuel.
My loss of license was due to depression but I have lost my short term memory and senses of taste and smell. I have permanent tinitus as well as a personality change.I stopped airline flying 22 years ago and after 7 years felt confident enough to instruct on gliders which I did for 8 years but felt that in my late 50s I was starting to make small mistakes so quit. The type of gliding I did was far more challenging than airline work. I now paraglide, again very challenging. I 've flown 4,000 hours plus since I lost my license and generally my health has improved. My short term memory slightly in spite of increasing age (68). I am now celiac, which I think I have been for a long time. This was diagnosed three years ago after an overdose of cortisone (motorcycle race track injury). My bowel movements are now more normal than at any time since 1975.I have had a minor blood disorder for a decade which they don't know the cause which I ignore after all I've got to die from something.
To sum up. It depends on the routes,company, aircraft, maintenance, genes and luck. You won't find anyone admitting the dodgy aircraft, oils, drugs and radiation.
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Old 14th Mar 2018, 12:03
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It depends on the routes,company, aircraft, maintenance, genes and luck.
Sounds reasonable but, first of all, truly sorry to read of your difficulties.
"I was told I was a nervous pilot" Me too, esp with route checker sitting in.
"due to Salmonella" Seen stewardess's husband with that. Not great!
"the second Larium" Which had a bit of a reputation. In the end, I just sprayed and covered up at night.
"our passengers were from exotic destinations and brought with them exotic bacteria" Could be but I've been lucky.
"I have permanent tinitus" Had that for years - must start using it as an excuse for not always hearing Mrs Bas very well.
" instruct on gliders" Crossed my mind to instruct powered but thought better of permitting stude to kill me when, following many years of trying, I'd failed to do so myself.
"motorcycle race track" Oh, come on now! You should be dead already"
"which they don't know the cause " Yes, had that diagnosis. The bleeders don't know everything.
Anyway, you're still here and good luck!
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Old 14th Mar 2018, 23:30
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Luck Basil thanks

Although my second bout of malaria was caught on the North Atlantic, the aircraft had come out of DAR and the CC hadn't sprayed it.
Larium..case action going on in Ireland which was already banned in germany in the mid 80s due to side effects.
Took an enhanced pension till 65..quite a shock to outlive both mine and my wife's last two male generations

Last edited by blind pew; 15th Mar 2018 at 06:45.
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Old 15th Mar 2018, 01:45
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I'll drink (moderately ) to that.


I raise my glass to you, Basil, for surviving your youthful endeavors in manual labor.
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Old 15th Mar 2018, 09:13
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Originally Posted by vapilot2004


I raise my glass to you, Basil, for surviving your youthful endeavors in manual labor.
Manuel Libor is lying; I never touched him!!
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Old 15th Mar 2018, 12:19
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its pretty bloody unhealthy here - my top tip is don't get a job in Beijing..
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Old 15th Mar 2018, 12:33
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Originally Posted by fireflybob
The author also mentions the difficulty he has when talking to CEOs etc of companies and convincing them (with proof) that sleep deprived employees are less likely to be productive etc.
How stupid can they be...

On the other hand, it's not too surprising because the CEO of my company (small airline manufacturer) strongly believes there is and will be a pilot shortage ...
Originally Posted by fireflybob
Finally, slightly off thread but interesting to note that the circadian rhythm of adolescents is about 2/3 hours different from adults. So when you have difficulty getting your teenager out of bed in the morning it's simply because for various reasons nature has programmed them for a different circadian rhythm. Many mental health conditions such as schizophrenia start in adolescence and the author suggests this is caused by insufficient sleep and that school times should be adjusted for this age group (e.g. start at 1000, finish at 1900) for this reason. School start times have become progressively earlier with many children having to wake at 0600 or even earlier to catch the school bus for early school start times and/or "breakfast clubs". I'd just finished reading this section of the book and switched the news on to hear about the shooting at a school in Florida which got me thinking! You have to read the book to read some compelling evidence on how mental health issues can be tracked back to repeated sleep disruption. There are also ramifications for sleep deprived aircrew and their long term mental health, I believe.
If only you had been minister of education when I was in school...
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Old 15th Mar 2018, 15:51
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Go part time on early shift! Natural circadian ( Sun down , go to bed , Up before the birds fart!
Lots of flying and a stable roster.
5 on 13 off love it!
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Old 15th Mar 2018, 17:19
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There was a study done of aircrew about 20 years ago now I think, but maybe a bit more, and at that time the data showed that professional pilots had a higher than average life expectancy. Not by much, a year or two but it was above average. The longest lived of all were the flight engineers, who lived a bit longer than the pilots. Of course its all average mean values and no predictor of an individuals longevity. Also what the results would be for the current cadre nobody will know for many years to come as it is obviously based on retrospective data (i.e death)
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Old 16th Mar 2018, 01:50
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Pilots live longer than their non pilot peers.

Cancer death risk is up slightly. Roughly 1%.

Marrying the wrong person probably is a greater health risk. Worrying about stuff outside of your control probably is a greater health risk.
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Old 16th Mar 2018, 09:19
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Stats

Maybe a comparison with the professional classes would be more relevant after all we are amongst the top 2% earners, retired at 55 and had excellent medical benefits.
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Old 16th Mar 2018, 20:14
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Originally Posted by Basil
Manuel Libor is lying; I never touched him!!


What about Juanita Dinero?
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Old 17th Mar 2018, 02:50
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Better life expectancy could be partly due to medical requirements. People with significant health issues are excluded from being a pilot in the first place and regular medical checkups means a pilot would be more likely to have a developing health problem identified early compared to someone who only ever sees the doctor when they're feeling poorly.
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Old 17th Mar 2018, 18:31
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More of the guys that I have seen retire over the last 10 years are dead than alive. Purely my anecdotal experience, but it is altering my plans, and I will go before 65 and am already part time. Having done many years of SH and LH, I find LH kinder to live with in spite of the timezone changes. I suspect that the younger pilots who are health aware and look after themselves will find the benefits negatively balanced by the rigours of modern rostering patterns.
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Old 17th Mar 2018, 19:47
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Just chipping in with a few points in no special order of importance/severity.

1.
Irregular work hours resulting in abnormal sleep patterns which in turn leads to less and worse quality of sleep. Series of early starts, late endings or even all nighters. Even worse when in combination with a normal family life. Can be mitigated quite a lot with good rostering (fatigue management).
2.
Dry air (3% humidity in your average airliner). Resulting in dehydration, dry eyes, dry skin etc.
3.
Sitting for long periods. Can result in tight hips/hip flexors, rolled shoulders and a host of others negative effects. No option for a standing desk in this office.
4.
Radiation. More in higher altitudes and latitudes (ie. polar)
5.
Noise in the cockpit (different between acft types, newer jets generally quiet)
6.
Irregular meal times. Usually eaten off a tray on your lap.
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Old 18th Mar 2018, 13:59
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Originally Posted by blind pew
I am now celiac, which I think I have been for a long time.
Hi there,

I have a case of celiac disease in my family, so it's something I have quite a bit of knowledge about. Celiac disease can bring, on the long term, all kinds of the most diverse symptoms, from bowels up to the mind. Reading your account, I suspect, as you said, that you had it for a long time, and that it played a part on many of your past issues, probably compounded by the undeniably stressing and not-very-healthy life of an airline pilot.

In any case, having it diagnosed and treated now, is the important part. Good luck for your life! :-)
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Old 18th Mar 2018, 20:57
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Originally Posted by PyroPet
Just chipping in with a few points in no special order of importance/severity.

1.
Irregular work hours resulting in abnormal sleep patterns which in turn leads to less and worse quality of sleep. Series of early starts, late endings or even all nighters. Even worse when in combination with a normal family life. Can be mitigated quite a lot with good rostering (fatigue management).
2.
Dry air (3% humidity in your average airliner). Resulting in dehydration, dry eyes, dry skin etc.
3.
Sitting for long periods. Can result in tight hips/hip flexors, rolled shoulders and a host of others negative effects. No option for a standing desk in this office.
4.
Radiation. More in higher altitudes and latitudes (ie. polar)
5.
Noise in the cockpit (different between acft types, newer jets generally quiet)
6.
Irregular meal times. Usually eaten off a tray on your lap.
Speak for yourself on number 6! Kidding. Couldn't resist it 😉
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Old 18th Mar 2018, 21:26
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All the replies come from pilots. Don't forget to ask the wives & girl friends. They are involved as well.
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Old 18th Mar 2018, 21:53
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I'm a firm believer that the majority of premature illnesses are caused by one thing. Stress.

The best advice I can give is don't get stressed or annoyed during the day to day operation. Delays happen, weather could be bad, handling could be incompetent. If you're on the Saturday night Rhodes, is there any point stressing about a five minute delay on departure due to a lack of ground staff? You're not going to see your bed until 7am anyway.

The rest is just a part of the career we've chosen. Is it really more unhealthy to sit in the left seat of a jet on shift patterns, whilst earning six figures, compared to sitting in traffic for 1-2 hours per day to sit in an office doing a job you probably don't care about for less than half? A lot of pilots, particularly those on legacy contracts, simply can't relate to the stresses and strains of a 'normal' job on a 'normal' salary, struggling to make ends meet and putting food on the table for the family. This, to me, is far more damaging to one's health than the physical stresses and strains of our profession.

Of course, a lot depends on the airline and operation you've signed up to. If I had to do another 30 years of high intensity low cost short haul flying in its current form, I wouldn't expect to make it to retirement.
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