International Leadership: Meeting the Challenges

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

The medical staff and I are committed to leading the international aviation medical community in the development of new medical standards through research, education, and scientific exchange programs. We believe the international forum presents a significant opportunity to participate with other countries in the development of medical standards and procedures to ensure safety and strengthen the aviation industry.

Cooperation between the Office of Aerospace Medicine and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has resulted in the implementation of international initiatives in aviation medicine.

Symposia and meetings. Our international initiatives include participation in symposia and meetings that focus on diverse subjects, including human factors in aircraft operations, application of medical standards for pilots and air traffic controllers, and drug and alcohol abuse in aviation.

We hosted a comprehensive symposium on flight safety and human factors in Washington, DC, on April 12-15. Internationally renowned experts provided human factors information to operators and civil aviation administrations to enhance aviation safety. This symposium was the second in a series sponsored by ICAO's Flight Safety and Human Factors Study Group.

As an additional initiative in international involvement, the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute’s Aeromedical Education Division plans to host biennial international symposia on issues in aviation medicine. They have asked foreign aviation licensing authorities and leaders in international aviation medicine to share their concerns on a broad range of subjects.

  • Interfaces. Through many of our regional offices, including the Alaska, Southern, and Southwest Regions, we provide an interface with the Russian Republic, Canada, and the countries of Central and South America, including Mexico. Our medical staff members join multidisciplinary teams on visits to foreign aviation officials and organizations to advise and consult on medical standards, medical certification policy, and other human factors in aviation safety. Through the FAA international field offices, the regional flight surgeons receive and respond to inquiries about agency medical programs and certification policies and procedures.
  • Research partnerships. Three years ago we established an U.S./Russia Aviation Medicine Human Factors Working Group. This group collaborates on research projects. For example, cognitive function testing of Aeroflot pilots (utilizing Cogscreen, an experimental cognitive test battery); a visual processes study, and a study on responses to antihypertensive medications. We are planning additional studies on the effects of heat on helicopter crewmembers, and on determining the relationship between Cogscreen measurements and performance of Aeroflot pilots during short haul operations. The working group alternates meeting locations between the United States and Russia.
  • Drug and Alcohol Abatement. More recently, in association with ICAO, Drug Abatement Division representatives from the Office of Aerospace Medicine are helping to develop international guidance materials to establish aviation drug and alcohol abatement programs. Activities by an ICAO study group, now being formed, will begin soon.
We believe the role we play in enhancing international aviation medicine is significant. We look forward to expanding it in the future. In so doing, we believe that international aviation will be better able to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.