Flight Surgeon Glam


Midway through my FAA physical (the medical exam pilots need to make their ratings valid) my flight surgeon got a phone call. She apologized profusely and said the number belonged to one of her ex-patients. (Her eighty-two-year-old father). Last year she refused to renew his medical when she discovered he was secretly taking high blood pressure medication and then lying to the FAA about it. (By the way, she comes  from a long line of flight surgeons, three generations to be exact–grandfather, father and brother.)


“What?” My MD’s eyebrows raised and her jaw popped open. “Chest pains?” her voice edged with concern. “So instead of going to the hospital, you went to the gym and got on the treadmill?” Every ounce of her bedside manor flew out the door.


“Great dad, so you did your own stress test; now let’s get you to a cardiologist and put some science behind the self-diagnosis.”


I assumed he begrudgingly agreed, because she quickly finished my paperwork and rushed to the hospital. 


After a litany of tests, the cardiologist confirmed that her dad did, in fact, have a minor heart attack some time ago, but the area around the heart calcified and there wasn’t any reason for him to undergo surgery to install stints.


When the cardiologist asked if their was anything else he could do to help, her father requested an eye test. Apparently he was having trouble navigating his car around town without bumping into curbs. (Just in case you’re wondering, yes, he still has a pilots license.)


The cardiologist agreed to the test and the PA checked his vision. “Twenty/one hundred,” the young medical assistant reported. (and he also failed the depth perception exercise. You know, having glaucoma and all.) 


“Dammit,” the aging aviator pounded his fist on the wall. “Now I’m never going to get my medical back.” he collapsed onto the examining table and rubbed his temples. 


My Dr./friend told me she lost her cool. He’d finally gone too far. She yelled at the top of her lungs.  “Your eye sight is the least of your worries, dad! You cant get your medical reinstated because you had a heart attack, lied to the FAA, and took heart medication while you were flying. You’re through.” 


In response to her heart-to-heart, flight surgeon-to-pilot, daughter-to-father chat, her dad sat quietly for a tick. She considered that maybe she got through to him this time.


But the silence went on a little too long for someone on the verge of coming to his senses. She waited and listened, knowing quite well what was coming next.


“Never mind,” her father said. “I’ll call  your brother.”


  1. Ronaldo on August 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Nathan,Do you have a link for where the raw data used in this visualization came from?I beileve there are some key variables that because of their omission, skew the visualization. For instance, if there are a great deal more flights during the day, there will be more Airplane-Bird Collisions during the day. I would be interested in see the percentage of flights that had a collision broken down by time of day instead of just count by time of day.I would also be interested in the level of detail goes down to individual airports, and then plot their Lat/Lon on the map instead of the state Lat/Lon with a mark that is sized based on percent of collisions per flights. The rarity of a bird species in each state or region may be another factor to consider.In order to reach this viewpoint, additional data sources may need to be merged in. But having a link the data source with counts of incidents would a good starting point to reach these goals.

  2. Nikky on February 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    The problem with wainitg for the FAA to do something is simple. You wait long enough and the FAA will find a way to avoid doing anything and the issue will simply slowly disappear. That is the FAA way. Even in enforcement actions, who can fight the U. S. Treasury and the DOJ. The deck is stacked so the impetus to correct the wrong has to come from pressure from outside the government. Look carefully the next time you go the the VNY FSDO. The sign will probably read David Riggs Flight Standards District Office with the location being Van Nuys California. It would be interesting to verify if he has a key to the facility. They, VNY FSDO, should be ashamed of their failure to stop this obvious violation to regulatory guidance. Or maybe they can’t read?

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