Aerospace Medicine

Have you ever wondered about the possibility of suffering trauma or a pathology while flying? Almost everyone has experienced emotional sensations and behavior not very normal when flying by plane at some point whether on take-off or landing. You probably have felt or faced this. Imagine the sensations while flying in helicopters, racing aircraft or even space shuttle and rockets. Those are scenarios where sciences as physiology, medicine and ergonomics took a relevant role.

Expedition 65 crew members include (from left) Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. Source: How many safety measures we can see here?

Aerospace medicine or aviation medicine is the branch or a part of occupational medicine. Here the surgeon or medical examiners perform tests or exams on pilots, aircrews, or astronauts. Therefore, within this branch similar to common physicians, the aviation medical examiner or flight surgeon treat to prevent, care, and heal the crew from any pathology. They use the medical experience as the component of aerospace safety.

U.S. Navy Flight Surgeon. Source: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Robert Brooks

The aviation medical examiner is the civil professional, and on the other hand, is the flight surgeon, the military. This last is different from the first since he or she is a pilot.

Jay Flottmann, USAF Flight Surgeon & F-22 Pilot. Source:

The aerospace environment in some circumstances is not as quiet as it seems. Depending on the weather, the absence of atmosphere, the aircraft maneuvers and missions, the human body faces to stresses, biological and psychological responses. That is why aerospace medicine has taken a relevant role, the aircraft and spaceship are made to be manned or controlled by humans, our limits are considered, our behaviors, our anthropometrics, our memory and overall capacity.

Astronauts in the C-131 “vomit comet” simulate weightless flight. Source: NASA
Centrifugator, pilots are tested at high speed. Source: Andy Stenning / Daily Mirror

Aerospace medicine looks for a safe workplace (the aircraft, the operations, etc.). Maintaining a low-risk level requires the perfect performance of the crew. Even the passengers within the cabin of an aircraft are considered in studies within aerospace medicine, only flying below the atmospheric pressure is a requirement to study the behavior of our blood pressure and comfort, and take a look while flying at high accelerations.

Current level of comfort in commercial flight. Source: Airbus
Suits for pilots in the SR-71. Source:

Having seen the factors involving this medicine, it is perfectly understandable the safety components, for supporting the crew or increasing the comfort in a cabin of any aircraft, and in other scenarios, the suits for pilots or crew needed in the fighter aircraft, racing aircraft, space shuttles or Rocket-powered aircraft.


Cover Photo:

Photography by Swiss Air-Rescue Rega ©2020/Bombardier

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