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March 30, 1963

In-Flight Pilot Incapacitation

JAMA. 1963;183(13):1088-1090. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.63700130007011b

DURING THE YEARS 1959, 1960, and 1961, the Air Training Command of the US Air Force flew a total of 3,606,787 hr, two thirds of which were in jet-type aircraft.1 In these 3 yr, there were 53 fatal accidents, of which 51 were in jet aircraft. In 18 of the fatal accidents, some sort of physical incapacitation of the pilot was suggested, and in 5 of these cases, physical incapacitation was the probable cause of the accident.2 Fifty-three fatal accidents appears to be a large figure; when considered in light of total hours flown, however, it compares well with the current fatality rate per 100,000 flying hours, which is now at a low of 1.4. This figure reflects a continuing improvement, with recorded rates of 8 in 1947 and 55 in 1921.3 This safety record is even more striking when one realizes that most of the