Flying in the face of danger
Flying at fast speeds can cause a multitude of specific health complaints. Mikko Kaupinnen speaks to Juha Salminen, a pilot in the Finnish air force, about the health risks of being a fighter pilot
Flying at fast speeds in confined spaces is something that Captain Juha Salminen, an F-18 Hornet pilot with the Finnish air force, knows all about. After spending more than 600 hours in a fighter plane since November 2000, he has noticed changes in his health and has heard similar stories from other pilots, although they are all in good shape.
According to Salminen, the strong g forces that occur when executing tight turns, take their toll on the back, neck, eyes, and capillaries and are just one of the factors that affect the health of a pilot. Superficial capillaries rupture because of the increase in pressure in the veins during a tight turn, producing small (2 mm) telangiectases on the skin, especially on the limbs. The neck and back, however, usually bear the brunt of the high g forces. Many pilots have prolapse of an intervertebral disc. “A prolapse can