Real Answers from Real Pilots

Health of a pilot

(Charles) #1

Hey Everyone,

I know that being a pilot has a lot of responsibilities not only to themselves but also the souls behind him while in the air. One of the main elements of being responsible as a pilot is to be healthy, however, due to the nature of the career, pilots can have an irregular schedule thus affecting his/her resting period and so on. So I have a few questions regarding how do you maintain your health.

  1. Does staying in the air for a substantial amount of time actually affect your health?

  2. Since a sufficient amount of sleep is a priority for pilots, how do pilots adjust to different time zones to get better sleep?

  3. How do pilots stay in “pilot shape”, do they discipline themselves physically or psychologically in order to get ready for the amount of work that is required from a pilot?



Hi Charles,

Really good questions and yes health is essential to your career as a pilot. Not only are you required to maintain a First Class medical which at means an exam every 6 mos at my age (12mos if you’re under 40), it’s also a responsibility as you may have 300+ people counting on you not to keel over. So let’s go…

  1. Yes. There have been many studies done on the effects of extended periods of time spent at altitude. Increased exposure to UV rays, breathing dry air and simply not moving for 6+ hrs at a time are things that just aren’t good for the human body. That’s said there are mitigations. It’s very important to stay hydrated and most pilots consume large amounts of fluids throughout the flight (or should). Many either bring sunshades for the windows or apply sunblock to help with the rays. Finally it’s important to get up and at least walk around some. Fortunately most larger aircraft have cockpits large enough for you to get up and stretch etc. All good practices.

  2. Pilots have many strategies for dealing with time zones. Some take melatonin, some try and stay up and acclimate to the new zone. There are many. Personally I just listen to my body and when I’m tired I sleep. Fortunately on the long haul flights (where we require an augmented crew) we actually have bunks where you can actually get some good rest.

  3. “Pilot shape” is a relative term. If you look around the airport I sure you’ll see a variety of pilots in a variety of shapes (from fit to obese). Again it’s up to the individual. It can be challenging sometimes particularly when it comes to meals and working out but it’s really important if you want to keep flying till 65. With some discipline and creativity it’s generally not that bad.


(Charles) #3

Thanks Adam, some great insights there!