November 1, 1985

Physicians address flying safety concerns with variety of actions

JAMA. 1985;254(17):2373-2375. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360170011001

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A well-known physician flies a private plane from his home area to a city three states away in order to attend the Friday evening and early Saturday sessions of a medical meeting. Then, later on Saturday, he pilots the plane on an even longer three-state flight to another city. At dusk that same day, despite low-hanging clouds and his being unqualified as an instrument pilot, he takes off on what he plans to be the first leg of the nearly coast-to-coast flight that should allow him to arrive home in time for a full schedule on Monday.

A few moments later, at 840 m (2,800 ft) of altitude, the lone physician-pilot banks the twin-engine airplane toward home... and crashes into a mountain.

Similar reports of fatal (as this one was) or nonfatal private airplane crashes in the past have given physicians a reputation as unsafe pilots. But among the organizations