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I have a privacy preserving technology that could conceivably help prevent the Germanwings crash of 2014. The idea would be there is a long list of issues that would prohibit a pilot from flying encoded on a ID card that anonymizes a pilot's information:

I'm guessing that a list might look like this:

  • Overwork (no sleep)
  • Simulator experience, test results
  • Medical issues (temporary)
  • Drug tests
  • Psychological issues

A list of medical providers would link the results together, anonymously, and during the pre-flight check, the ID card would be scanned and rather than a specific issue being highlighted, (depression), the pilot would be asked to rest for a while. No system would know why the rejection occurred, except for the pilot himself.

This might for a balance of privacy, safety, and accountability without compromising need to know.

That being said, I would appreciate any official, or carrier specific list of reasons a pilot would be rejected from flying. The closest I've gotten to learning about this is MSFT Flight Simulator and a few hours in a Cessna

Supplemental information would be helpful as well (your thoughts about this solution)

Scope

Per the comments below this question, the scope is limited to US

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.se! your first version was correct, I'd say (IS there A list). As for the questions itself, I'm afraid we are on the verge of too-broad: there are quite a lot of carriers and countries around, one list for each might be quite too much for the format. $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 13 '15 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico - Limited scope to US (and maybe UK?), and asked for how to find the information, rather than the list itself. Let me know if that is constrained enough. $\endgroup$ – goodguys_activate Jul 13 '15 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ I think so, yes. We'll see also what the rest of the community thinks. $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 13 '15 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ I would still split this in to two questions: one for the US and one for the UK at a bare minimum. It is very (VERY) unlikely to find an expert who can provide one answer to both, and then you will be left with the situation of having two answers, neither of which fully answers the question... $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Jul 13 '15 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger - will do $\endgroup$ – goodguys_activate Jul 13 '15 at 21:40
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The list is exactly one item long:
Any condition which would impair your ability to conduct the flight safely, and in accordance with FAA Regulations.

Any more specific list will miss things and be riddled with loopholes - at some point we have to trust that pilots are sane and responsible individuals, just like we do when we let people get in a car.


From a medical perspective the general medical certification information page at faa.gov is a good starting point, and the FAA's guidance for Aviation Medical Examiners has lots of details.

There are also some disqualifying conditions which are explicitly listed in the regulations, and a list of (some of the) medications which will prevent the FAA from issuing a medical certificate.


The things I noted above will prevent you from getting a medical certificate. Once you HAVE that certificate the "I'M SAFE" checklist or something equivalent expands upon that and tries to help pilots determine whether they're fit to fly right at this moment. There are various ways of interpreting the acronym, but a common one is:

I for Illness
Do I have an illness or any symptoms of an illness?

M for Medication
Have I been taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs?
If so, do they have a negative affect on my ability to perform this flight?
Are any of them disallowed by the FAA?

S for Stress
Am I under psychological pressure from the job or personal issues?

A for Alcohol
Have I been drinking within eight hours? Within 24 hours?

F for Fatigue
Am I tired and not adequately rested?

E for Eating
Am I adequately nourished, or at least "not hungry"?

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There are four very general reasons - really, categories of reasons - that I can think of to ground a pilot (or for a pilot to ground himself):

  • It would be illegal to fly for obvious procedural reasons, e.g. your license has expired, you've exceeded legal limits on flying hours
  • It would be illegal to fly for obvious medical reasons, e.g. you're taking a medication that the FAA doesn't allow
  • You're legal to fly, but your employer's policies don't allow you to fly, e.g. you haven't had some specific internal sign-off required for a certain aircraft, route or crew combination
  • You shouldn't fly for non-obvious reasons that are known only to yourself, e.g. you're suffering from stress or grief, or have an undisclosed medical condition

But the thing is, airlines already track as much of this information as possible anyway. If they didn't track them, they couldn't schedule pilots on flights efficiently and they have to make sure that every pilot is up to date with medicals, licenses etc. to avoid scheduling problems and lost revenue.

So the only real issue is when a pilot knows he should ground himself but chooses not to. There's no solution to that except to encourage pilots to identify those situations properly, and to have laws and policies that don't penalize pilots who self-ground for good reasons. Even if Germany - or any other country - starts allowing doctors to share private medical data with aviation regulators and airlines, it won't prevent cases where pilots deliberately conceal medical issues.

And you also have to consider that airlines would quickly become very unhappy with any system that says "this pilot can't fly today but we can't tell you why and we can't tell you when he will be able to fly again".

So - at least in my opinion - your proposal mostly reproduces what airlines are already doing, and creates an additional problem of unpredictable staffing. Considering how rare accidents are, it's doubtful if any 'solution' is actually necessary, although I do think it's great that someone is thinking about how to balance privacy with safety.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps this solution could enhance the systems already in place with more privacy... encouraging those who are fearful of information being disclosed to get help when needed. Where can I get information on those existing systems? $\endgroup$ – goodguys_activate Jul 13 '15 at 22:08
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AOPA has a comprehensive list that answers your question from the medical perspective. The linked resource for each broad category explains the particulars.

Health Conditions That May Affect Certification

In this section, find answers to questions about how a medical condition might impact your flying privileges. Information is categorized by physiology and includes the relevant medical standards, as well as the procedures to follow for recertification, or to obtain a special issuance medical certificate.

Bone and Joint—Includes information on arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.

Cancer—Many pilots recover from cancer and regain flying privileges. Find out more here.

Ear, Nose, Throat, and Equilibrium—Read the medical standards for hearing, as well as information on cochlear implants, Eustachian bypass, and motion sickness.

Endocrine System—Includes information on diabetes and thyroid conditions.

Gastrointestinal—GERD, hepatitis, colitis, Crohn’s disease and more are covered here.

Heart and Circulatory System—Read how to get recertified after having heart-related problems.

Immune System—HIV and related conditions are included in this section.

Mental Health—This section covers ADD/ADHD, depression, psychological evaluation, and substance abuse.

Neurological (Nervous System)—Read about migraine headaches, cerebrovascular disease, and strokes.

Pulmonary—Read how you can keep your medical certification if you have asthma, allergies, or another lung-related condition.

Sleep Disorders—Find out what you’ll need to do to get your medical renewed if you have sleep apnea.

Substance Abuse—Here are the guidelines for certification if you have a history of alcohol or drug-related problems.

Urology (includes kidney)—Read how to be recertified after having kidney stones removed, or after a successful kidney transplant.

Vision—Color vision, glaucoma, and LASIK surgery are all covered here.

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