International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine
Official opening of the Congress
Melbourne – 17 September 2012
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Australia and to the 60th International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine, hosted by the Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine. I understand that this is the largest academy meeting for some time with over 400 delegates attending from 40 countries.
As the Director of Aviation Safety in Australia, it’s a great honour to be invited to officially open this prestigious event.
You might be surprised to know that Australia has the highest number of pilots per head of population of any country in the world. Every pilot needs to go through a thorough periodic medical check; hence, the importance of aviation medicine and its practitioners is not lost in the pilot community.
Just like other aircraft equipment, the pilot must be fit to conduct a flight. However, as a result of the considerable advances in medicine, we are now seeing pilots continuing successful careers with conditions that not all that long ago would have seen them unable to hold a medical certificate.
In that regard, I would have to say that CASA’s aviation medicine Branch is very forward looking in its work. When a pilot has a problem, our doctors examine each case individually with the purpose in mind of keeping the pilot flying. Sometimes this isn’t understood by members of the aviation industry, and we have received more than a few complaints. But if it’s remembered that the purpose is to keep people flying where possible, then the requests for additional tests and assessments can be seen in a different light.
An example of this is Australia’s approach to allowing pilots to fly when using anti-depressants. Australia was the first jurisdiction to allow this. Under the current protocols, there is no fixed time that a pilot must be grounded before returning to fly. We allow pilots to fly again even if they are in remission and using only a single medication.
Our protocols related to using insulin have been well appreciated worldwide, and it is pleasing to see that other jurisdictions have adopted these methods. CASA is always happy to share what we have done with others in the aviation community.
And the reverse is also true. As a part of harmonising our practices with rest of the world, we have followed many other jurisdictions by creating a drivers licensing medical standard for recreational pilots.
The pilots who qualify to use this system can obtain their medical certificate from any general practitioner instead of having to visit a designated aviation medical examiner and apply for a class 2 medical. For many pilots this will reduce the time and cost of obtaining a medical certificate. The new system is open to all CASA licensed pilots who operate aircraft in a private or recreational capacity, subject to a number of safety-related restrictions.
Forums like this provide the opportunity to share ideas, knowledge and experiences amongst and between aviation professionals at the highest level. I understand that amongst the many papers to be presented and discussed at this forum, some will be offered by CASA representatives. I hope you will find these interesting and informative.
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not want to take up too much of your time, and I know you all are waiting to get to the meat of the discussions that are to follow.
I wish you a very pleasant stay in Australia, the very best of deliberations and discussions, and a productive and enjoyable conference.
It is now my pleasure to declare the 60th International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine open.