Professional Pilots -
Thursday, 01 February 2007 09:33
Hello Capt Lim,
I had a question that I would like to ask. My neighbor was a pilot for many years and just last month, he died at the age of 48! They said it was from a heart attack but could it be due to being a pilot for such a long time and being exposed to the constant changes of air pressures???
I have heard that pilots do die earlier because of the changes in air pressures.
There is no convincing evidence to show that a pilot runs the risk of early death just because he is exposed to the constant pressure changes in the airplane. As far as I know, the human body is very versatile and can adapt to the normal environmental pressure changes without much ill effect. At most, airline pilots in commercial airplanes are only subjected to pressure changes from ground level to an elevation of about 8500 feet of cabin altitude - an elevation similar to the city of Woodland Park (population - 6000 plus) in the state of Colorado in the USA even though the airplane may be actually cruising at an altitude of between 30,000 to 40,000 feet.
What I can say is that, being a pilot do have some risk factors that are experienced by some other profession as well. Due to the nature of their work, airline pilots are more exposed to cosmic radiation in the air; in Europe and the US, they are considered as radiation workers. Yes, they do receive exposure that put them in the top 5 percent of radiation workers. Even so, their exposures are no greater that half the value which is permissible under the strict European occupational standard.
What are the other risk factors? Well, commercial airline pilots are reported to be at an increased risks of some cancers and studies have shown that they are also likely to contract the common type of cataract associated with aging due to their exposure to radiation. However, studies and data on risk of death and cancer incidence on airline pilots are limited and I believe, better studies should be done in this area.
To me, I think I am rather philosophical about all these studies. Even if true, they are part and parcel of the occupational hazards that I accept as part of the pilot profession.