I’m in codger mode again, triggered by social media selfies and videos taken by gloveless military pilots in single-seat fighters. When did we quit wearing gloves? Aren’t we supposed to keep our sleeves rolled down and wear gloves to protect our skin in the event of fire? What happened to the be-no rule against still and video cameras in single-seat cockpits? God-damned whippersnappers.
And what’s this about avoiding health care to keep flying? There’s no avoiding annual flight physicals, not even in today’s gloveless check-out-my-YouTube-channel Air Force, so what exactly is Air & Space Forces Magazine talking about?
Flying is one of many professions where a medical problem, particularly anything mental health-related, can result in grounding and forcible retirement, but it’s the only one I can think of where your doctor goes out on the job with you. Flight surgeons are actual rated aircrew members who can and will jump in the jet with you. Not only do they fly with you, they generally love it and go up every chance they get, then pal around with you and the other pilots after work. Which means lots of exposure.
In movies and TV shows, we see cops get sent to the shrink after shooting and killing perps. What you never see are shrinks going along on patrols and stakeouts, becoming buds with the cops. Cops know shrinks are the enemy and keep their guard up around them. I’m betting that applies to doctors as well.
But your friendly base flight doc? The guy or gal who just spent the morning in your back seat on back-to-back BFM training missions, who helped check your six as you went in for a gun shot, sat through the debrief like a regular member of the flight and bought you all beers after work? Yeah, sorry … still the enemy. The flight doc knows you better than you might think, and is always watching and listening.
In flying, basic health care is unavoidable. Military aviators quickly learn to lay off booze and hard partying for a week or two before their annual flight physicals, and to look and act confident, at the top of their game, during the exam. They never ask questions or share health concerns. Outside of that, they watch what they do and say when flying or socializing with the flight doc. If they do have a medical or mental health problem to work through, they do it outside military channels.
Sometimes, as the headline suggests, this results in military aviators not getting the care they need, and of course that can be dangerous to them and others. But anyone who works in a profession where medical and mental issues can end a career understands why people decide not to seek help for problems they know they have, and I don’t see things changing soon.
Everybody knows this is how shit works. Surprised they felt a need to do a study to prove it.
3 thoughts on “Air-Minded: Know thine Enemy”
I’m an on-again, off-again student pilot starting in 1968 with 60 hours or so. I always think about flying again, at least until covid-19 came along. If I do it’ll be for the Sport Pilot rating which requires no medical exam. It forbids high powered aircraft, night flying and carrying more than one pax- fine with me, I only want to kill one foolish passenger anyway. With 60 hours, in theory, I could have passed the PPL exam. Except my solo student training was mostly joy-riding over Sacramento, Folsom, Rio Linda and Roseville, flying over my house and the lake. Plus if I’d gotten the Private ticket I still could not have afforded a plane or even enough rental hours to stay proficient. Now I’m retired from the civil service with some enheritance money so I probably could afford a cheap Air Knocker, Ercoupe or T-craft. They are about $18-35k these days with boomer pilots giving it up from age and disability. Of course anyone who reads statistics can tell these fabulous old puddle jumpers are dangerous as all hell, probably especially for an elderly student pilot like me. But I might buy one anyway if/when I get even older and more stupid. Just for the thrills. Augering in sure looks like a better death than the way my dad died at age 95. Hopefully I won’t hit anything. Well, maybe a treasonous Trumpite, improve the world.
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I’m glad my job doesn’t require a medical.
I maybe sounded a little hostile toward flight surgeons in my post. Didn’t mean to. They’re doing their job, and I was happy to be friendly with the ones I flew with. And the ones I worked with really did love to fly … I even know one who was both a Navy flight doc and a fully-qualified F-14 Tomcat pilot, a rare bird indeed. I flew out to San Diego to attend his retirement ceremony at NAS North Island, and he flew to Las Vegas to attend mine at Nellis AFB … we were, and remain, fast friends.