Assessing Fitness for Duty

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From the early stages of flight training, instructors teach students about the importance of assessing fitness for flight. The operation of an aircraft is a demanding task that requires the pilot in command to maintain the highest possible levels of situational awareness. Any external factors capable of impairing situational awareness must be promptly recognized, mitigated, and addressed in order to guarantee a successful outcome. 

The effects of fatigue on pilot performance are unquestionable. Decreased alertness leads to falling behind the aircraft – overlooking critical elements both during the preflight phase of flight and throughout its duration. Pilots must be trained to develop their own personal rest requirements, beyond their own company’s policies and procedures. Each individual requires different levels of rest to perform at optimum levels, and therefore, must tailor these to their own experience level. 

In addition to fatigue, flying with an illness or under the influence of a medication can also pose severe consequences. Medications can trigger a wide spectrum of side effects, many of which can take place at irregular intervals and go unnoticed by the individual. We can never train a pilot to recognize medications’ side effects. Rather, pilots must ground themselves prior to consuming any medication unless an aviation medical examiner dictates otherwise. The FAA has published official guidance on waiting periods for different medications. These waiting periods are minimum guidelines and may not be suitable for all individuals. If unsure, always consult with a medical examiner and make the most conservative decision. 

Even a healthy and well-rested pilot may be subject to the distractions of daily life stresses. Stress has the potential of diverting our attention, disrupting our sleep, and limiting our ability to focus. Unlike short-term stress, chronic stress does not resolve on its own and typically requires the intervention of a professional. Seek medical attention promptly will allow treatment of the underlying cause to offer the greatest benefit and opportunity to solve the stressing behavior. Stress may also be induced by external pressures to complete a flight assignment. Whether those are personal or professional pressures from the workplace, you should never fly under pressure. 

Fitness for flight is one of the most important elements of the risk assessment process. Whether a student pilot or experienced airline captain, the same guidelines and principles apply. Do not fly sick, fatigued or under external pressures. Guarantee your best possible performance while preserving your health and mental well-being. Lastly, never hesitate to seek professional medical advice, even if it involves grounding yourself for a period of time. Addressing either a mental- or physical-health issue promptly offers the best outcome of returning to the flight deck safely and at the earliest opportunity. 

SOURCEAero Crew News, May 2022
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Sergio Sovero was born and raised in Lima, Peru. At the age of 17, he moved to the United States to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida. Sergio obtained a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science in 2017, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He served as a flight instructor at ERAU, while assuming several leadership roles within the Flight Department. These included: Flight Supervisor, Quality Assurance Instructor, and Assistant Training Manager. He also developed additional training material, in support of furthering the curriculum and improving the quality of instruction. Such involvement lead to his recognition as “Flight Instructor of the Month”, as well as “Excellence in Quality of Instruction” awards. Sovero holds a Gold Seal CFI, AGI and IGI ratings. Upon meeting the minimum requirements, he joined Republic Airways, where he participated as a Pilot Recruiter and Interviewer. Joining Delta Air Lines at 23 years old, he holds A-320, B-757/767, DC-9 & ERJ-170 type ratings. Sergio is an active member of the ERAU Prescott Aerospace Advisory Board (AAB). As such, he provides unique perspectives to the College of Aviation regarding curriculum development. In response to his special interest in sustainable practices, Sergio is pursuing a Master of Science in Aviation and Aerospace Sustainability (MSAS), with a Human Factors Specialization, and is passionate about mentoring the next generation of professional pilots. He resides in Atlanta, loves traveling, and frequently visits his home town of Lima.

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