Female Israel Air Force pilots will be allowed to fly transport helicopters while pregnant under new guidelines being devised by IAF doctors, a senior army medical official said.
“In recent years, we have had more female pilots and navigators in transport and combat helicopters. This raises medical issues that are linked to the influence of flight conditions on the fetus.
“The question is, when can they fly? All of these issues are new, and have been examined in the past year,” Maj. Yael Frenkel-Nir, a physician and commander of the IAF’s flight medicine course, which qualifies air force doctors and nurses, said last week.
Following an investigation, the IAF’s medical team concluded that transport helicopters can be flown by pregnant pilots – but only in the second trimester.
“This is on the condition that they fly a limited number of hours,” Frenkel-Nir told The Jerusalem Post.
“We’ve formulated these guidelines in recent months.”
The air force medical course consists of 14 training sessions for staff to increase their knowledge of the flight environment. The course examines the effects of high-acceleration combat flight and g-forces on human physiology.
“Low oxygen levels and pressurized air also have a physical impact. We teach the course participants how they affect the body too,” she said.
The air force is teaching doctors to be specialists in various areas of flight medicine, including cardiology and aviation, and the effects of digital displays and night vision equipment on the eyes of pilots. “We’re qualifying doctors for every medical angle linked to aviation,” Frenkel-Nir said.
Other areas include lungs, ear, nose and throat.
“This is a compulsory course that begins every few years, in accordance with the latest needs,” Frenkel-Nir said. “There are changes to its format and content as time goes by.”
Another area of study in the course is the health of drone operators, who must sit for hours in ground control stations and focus their eyes on screens. “That’s a new world,” Frenkel-Nir said. “We’re determining what the required eyesight level is to qualify as a drone operator.”
Looking ahead, the IAF’s medical staff is examining systems such as the F-35 fighter jet, due to enter service in the coming years.
“We’ll learn about the new platforms and how their g-forces will affect physiology,” she said.