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Home > Medical Examination > Does a history of heart disease in the family disqualify me from being a pilot?
Does a history of heart disease in the family disqualify me from being a pilot?
Pilot Career - Medical Examination
Sunday, 16 December 2007 18:46

Dear Captain Lim,

I guess this is probably the ten thousandth times you get complimented for your spectacular website. But I still would like to thank you for putting up such an informative site. I regard reading your site as one of the most enjoyable activities of my life.

Like many of your fans, I am an aspiring pilot. I have the following questions and hope you would answer them.

1. I have heard that a pilot must retire after he/she has a heart attack. Why is this? Is heart attack very common among the pilot's population? Does a pilot have to retire after he/she has a stroke? Are there other regulations that force a pilot to retire?

2. I have applied to be a cadet pilot with my dream airline (Cathay Pacific) once but I didn't make it. During the medical examination, I told them that my father has heart disease. Is a history of heart disease in the family, a hindrance to being accepted as a pilot by the airline?

I think the hardest part of making it to the cadet pilot programme is the medical check. They required you to be medically fit as oppose to being physically fit - this is something you can work on.

Thanks again and I look forward to your answers.

Regards,

Cliff Cheng,
Hong Kong

Hi Cliff,

1. Yes, a pilot must retire when he suffers from a heart attack. In fact, if he survives, he would be grounded immediately. Why is it so? (If I were to refer this question to Dr JB Lim, he would give you a very lengthy answer!). Suffice to say, once a person has suffered a heart attack, the chances of a recurrence are very high. Surely, we cannot have the lives of many passengers put under jeopardy by allowing a pilot who has heart diseases before to fly again? But I understand, a pilot can still continue to fly if he has a heart by-pass operation successfully carried out prior to a heart attack.

I would not say that heart attacks are common among the pilot's population . I believe this medical condition prevails through a wide spectrum of the other professions as well. In fact, pilots undergo very stringent medical checks every six months or yearly in order to maintain their flying licenses. If they are potential heart attack candidates, they would usually be detected well before others. I am sure a stroke victim will have some form of paralysis. This would definitely disqualify him from flying as a pilot. A pilot will be grounded if he fails to satisfy the medical requirements for the award of his flying license. There may be many other medical grounds and regulations that would force a pilot to retire. Only a qualified medical doctor can answer this question in detail.

2. I don't think one's parent medical history of heart diseases would disqualify one from becoming a pilot. Perhaps that may not the main reason why you were not accepted for the Cadet Pilot Programme with Cathay Pacific Airways. Some Airlines are very strict with their entry requirements and you can only hope that they may change their policy in the future.

I wish you good health and better luck if you can find an opportunity to be a pilot elsewhere in the future.

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