Indian Air Force expects to have its doctors learning to fly military planes in order to understand first-hand the health problems their pilot patients face during and after sorties.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B.S.Dhanoa said having flying doctors would improve aviators’ efficiency as they face new challenges and new aircraft today. He has moved the proposal for the Defence Ministry’s approval in what would be a return to a 40-year-old practice.
He said, “It will be the best thing to happen to us. It is also good for doctors to fly because it is very difficult for pilots to become doctors and it takes them five long years.”
He said he has signed the proposal for the resurrection of the pilot-physician concept programme. The Army’s Director-General Medical Services suggested that the IAF “get its doctors back into the cockpit as motivation and bonhomie. As soon as they clear it, we [may] have them flying with us all over again. And we will catch them young.” He was addressing Air Force doctors at an international conference at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine here on Friday.
Social media, he said, are the new bane of the Force, disrupting interpersonal communication and affecting pilots’ sleep patterns. In 2013, a piliot who lost sleep continuously for several days because of an addiction to the social media, he said, had lost his life in an accident. A few years back, his now retired predecessor, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K,Browne, had expressed similar concerns over social media habits of aviators.
In these other crises, flight surgeons and aerospace medicine experts are the confidants of highly stressed pilots as well as their commanders. They keep the aviators in good shape mentally and physically. IAF realised this during the April Gaganshakti exercise when it did far more sorties than normal because doctors could monitor pilot fatigue well.
Air Marshal C.K. Ranjan, Commandant Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, said the pilot-physician plan being revived after four decades would help aerospace medicine professionals to handle the Force’s operational challenges better. India has had eight flying doctors before and after 1947.