aviation medicine

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aviation medicine,

scientific study of the biological effects of aviation, especially on human beings. Although aviation medicine is concerned with such problems as the spread of diseases by persons traveling by air and the harmful effects of noise and air pollution, its principal concern is with stresses applied to the passengers or crew of aircraft in flight. These stresses can include exposure to extreme temperatures, large inertial forces occurring when an aircraft undergoes acceleration, oxygen deprivation, and air sickness, as well as pilot fatigue and psychological disturbances. As the biological problems of space flight exceed considerably those of atmospheric flight, aviation medicine has become a special branch of space medicinespace medicine,
study of the medical and biological effects of space travel on living organisms. The principal aim is to discover how well and for how long humans can withstand the extreme conditions encountered in space, as well as how well they can readapt to the earth's
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, the latter study having largely absorbed the former.

Aviation Medicine


a branch of medicine aimed at the medical safeguarding of flight. It consists of aviation physiology (the theoretical bases of aviation medicine), aviation hygiene, aviation toxicology, aviation psychology, aviation biochemistry, aviation accidents, and medical evaluation of flight crews with special functional diagnosis.

Aviation medicine’s field of study includes (1) special states of the organism—flight fatigue, exhaustion, and chronic fatigue, high-altitude, air, and decompression sickness, barotraumas, and so on; (2) the activity of flight crews; and (3) specific occupational conditions. The overall goals of aviation medicine with respect to flight crews involve the safeguarding of a high level of in-flight efficiency (flight safety), the health of flight crews, and “flight longevity.” With regard to the passengers, aviation medicine contributes to flight safety, comfort, and the good condition of the organism after flight.

Aviation medicine is primarily a prophylactic science. In a number of cases, however, flight surgeons must take therapeutic measures, give first aid to crash victims, and so on. To solve many of its tasks, aviation medicine studies the effects of hypoxia, acceleration, and other aspects of flight on the organism.

The practical tasks of aviation medicine are medical screening of new flight personnel; medical and psychological safeguarding of flight training; developing efficient work and rest schedules for flight crews; laying the groundwork for technological means of protecting the human organism from the action of such unfavorable environmental factors as pressurized cabins, oxygen-breathing equipment, and anti-G devices; developing procedures for increasing body resistance, including training, various stimulants, and physical preparation; laying the groundwork for an efficient diet for flight crews; developing efficient clothing for the crews; eliminating medical causes of aircraft accidents and medically analyzing (investigating) aircraft accidents; participating in the search for crew and passengers after plane crashes, supplying medical assistance, and evacuating the victims; laying the medical groundwork for rescue equipment, including equipment for supplying oxygen under pressure, altitude-compensating equipment, pressure suits, ejection seats, parachutes, equipment for emergency landings of airliners, and ensuring the passengers’ oxygen supply in case of cabin decompression; controlling the health of flight crews by methods including special functional diagnosis.

Aviation medicine includes simulating occupational conditions with various devices such as altitude chambers and centrifuges; simulating flight in trainers; using photographic models of instrument panels; using airplanes as medical laboratories; rapidly gathering information about certain body functions by means of special recording equipment, which can be small, self-contained, or remote-controlled; and increasing the overall nonspecific resistance of the body by acclimatization to high altitudes. Many of the problems and methods of aviation medicine are similar to those of space medicine.

Aviation medicine took its first steps in the 1880’s in France, when the physiologists M. Jourdané and P. Ber began to study the condition of balloonists. In Russia, aviation medicine dates back to July 14, 1909, when the Council of the All-Russian Aeroclub recognized the need for giving flight permission to interested club members only on condition that they submit to a medical examination.

Characteristic features of the modern period of development of aviation medicine are (1) investigations pertaining to the scientific organization of flying; (2) the development of special functional diagnoses related to the increasing demands made by aviation technology on the human organism; (3) the search for general principles of the interaction of the organism with the environment—for example, nonspecific resistance and statokinetic resistance; (4) the introduction of mathematical methods and cybernetics; (5) intensive investigation of the man + machine system under flight conditions; and (6) theoretical generalizations of the results of investigations.

Great contributions to the development of aviation medicine in the Soviet Union were made by I. M. Sech-enov, L. A. Orbeli, V. I. Voiachek, N. N. Sirotinin, I. R. Petrov, V. V. Strel’tsov, P. I. Egorov, K. L. Khilov, A. P. Appolonov, A. A. Pereskokov, and V. G. Miroliubov. Abroad, the most significant research in aviation medicine was carried out by, among others, P. Garsaux and A. Mer-cier in France; K. Stende in the German Democratic Republic; A. Mosso, R. Margaria, C. Talenti, andT. Lomonaco in Italy; G. Dreyer, P. O’Connor, P. Howard, and P. King in England; D. Čapek, M. Dvořák, and M. Zeman in Czechoslovakia; M. Jongblood and A. Noyons in the Netherlands; A. Huszcza and V. Dybowskii in Poland; T. Halm in Hungary; L. Bauer, H. Armstrong, J. Fulton, W. Clark, F. Hitchcock, and P. Campbell in the USA; and T. Hasegawa in Japan.

The international organization of aviation medicine is the Paris-based International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine. In the Soviet Union, specialists in aviation medicine are trained at the Department of Aviation Medicine of the Central Institute of Postgraduate Medical Training in Moscow and at the S. M. Kirov Military Medical Academy in Leningrad.


Armstrong, H. Aviatsionnaia meditsina. Moscow, 1954. (Translated from English.)
Sergeev, A. A. Ocherki po istorii aviatsionnoi meditsiny. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
A Textbook of Aviation Physiology. Oxford, [1965].


aviation medicine

[‚ā·vē′ā·shən ′med·ə·sən]

aviation medicine

A field of medicine dealing with medical problems faced in aviation. The term has been superceded by aerospace medicine, which includes aviation medical problems in the atmosphere and aerospace.
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