Keith J Ruskin, MD, has recently been designated a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation medical examiner. After being selected by the FAA’s regional flight surgeon, aviation medical examiners must complete a comprehensive training program at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. The FAA also requires periodic recurrent training with both online courses and themed seminars.
Aviation medical examiners are an important component of aviation safety. During World War I, some pilots began mysteriously losing consciousness during flight. This strange phenomenon was initially called “fainting in the air.” Over time it was discovered that the flight environment posed unique physiologic challenges, and in 1926, the Air Commerce Act mandated that pilots had to be medically qualified to fly. Most pilots who fly today are evaluated by aviation medical examiners, as are air traffic controllers and certain other aviation professionals. Medical certification is part of the reason that the United States aviation system now has the safest record of any mode of passenger transportation. In addition to issuing medical certificates, aviation medical examiners often participate in pilot safety seminars, write about aeromedical issues that affect aviation safety, and occasionally assist in the investigation of aviation accidents.
Dr. Ruskin holds a commercial pilot’s certificate and is currently an associate fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and chairman of its Aerospace Human Performance Committee.