August 12, 2008: The U.S. Air
Force has a unique group of ten medical doctors, who are also military pilots
(including fighters). These physicians spend part of their time flying, and
part of their time practicing medicine (as flight surgeons, that is,
specialists in medical problems related to flying). These flying doctors are often crucial when
there is an accident to be investigated, or some new physical condition that is
afflicting pilots. The edge the pilot/doctors have is that other pilots will
not be as fearful that they will be grounded without reason. This is common
with non-pilot doctors, who err on the side of caution. The pilot-MDs have
better insights into the medical problems pilots encounter, and have been of
great use not just for pilot morale, but for better, and quicker, understanding
of flight medicine.
The pilot MDs were developed via a program that enabled academically
qualified pilots go to medical school at air force expense.