Barring some recorded interesting cases, aviation accidents have always been exclusively and totally devastating. Hence in an aviation accident, saving the life of the victims is not usually the main issue. Identification of the victims from the grossly mutilated body parts of the victims, scattered over an wide area is the main problem. Many a times the remains of the aircraft and the victims cannot be traced. There is a qualitative difference between the civil aviation accident and airforce (military) aircraft accident, which arise from the quantitative loss of lives (number of casualties). In a civil aircraft accident loss of human lives is never less than two figures. But in a peacetime training exercise, an air force plane accident, hardly causes more than a few casualties. This is primarily due to less number of crews or passengers on board in the aircraft and the better safety provisions in the army aircrafts.
Role of a medical man in the investigation procedure of an aircraft accident –
1. To help the aviation authority to establish the identity of the victims.
2. To help in the reconstruction of the accident.
3. To ascertain human error contributing to the accident, if it is due to physical and mental factors of the pilot of the plane.
4. To study the different aspects of air travel and to participate in the future safety plans.
Identification of the victims –
It is one of the greatest problem which arises out of plane crash. The bodies are often so much mutilated or burnt out that, identification of the victims seems impossible. But identification of the victims is an essential job. Sometimes the pocket articles, like, identity card, passport, letters etc., tattoo marks, dentition and denture, may help to identify the body parts of an individual. But if the plane was on fire, then with clothings, the pocket articles etc. may be burnt out. Not only the complexion may be distorted but part or even whole of the body may reduce to char. In these cases, the dentition and the denture may be helpful.
Contribution of the medical man in the investigation of different aspects of aviation accident is not limited within identification of the victims of the accident. He may help much in the reconstruction of the accident from his study of the extent of mutilation of the body of different victims, from the extent of burn injuries sustained by the victims, distribution of different injuries in different victims, the state of anoxia in different victims, the level of COHb in the blood etc. Informations on these aspects not only help in the reconstruction of the accident but also in the efforts towards future safety steps.
Hazards of air travel –
Critical hazards of all air travels essentially include fatality. The hazards may be linked with any of the followings –
1. Hazards related with complications of high altitude.
2. Those related with mechanical defect of the aircraft.
3. Defects with the pilot.
4. Unforeseen problems.
5. Problems related with emergency evacuation of the craft.
1. High altitude complications are not faced in present day flights. One of the common complications of high altitude is anoxia or hypoxia. Now-a-days, there is little chance of this problem arising in high altitude flights, because internal pressure is well maintained inside the craft. Another high altitude complication could be decompression syndrome. This is also not seen in present day flights. Hypoxia and decompression symptoms can occur only in very few rare circumstances due to development of some mechanical defects in the plan?.
2. The problems commonly related with mechanical defects of the plane, usually prove disastrous. These may be –
(a) Failure of an engine
(b) Fire in an engine
(c) Failure of the signalling system
(d) Failure of the radio-communication
(e) Failure of the wheels to project out or go in while landing and taking of.
Any of the above defects may lead to blazing or crushing of the plane.
3. Defects with the pilot
(a) Disease, particularly heart ailments – This factor is not ignorable.
(b) Effect of alcohol or other drug – Alcohol or any other intoxicating drug is totally prohibited for the pilot during and before the period of flight.
Periodical and before-flight check up of the pilots are essential precautionary steps.
4. Unforeseen problems may be –
(a) Storm or disturbing air pockets.
(b) Planes striking a bird or an agitated bird striking over some parts of the plane.
(c) Present day terrorist activity.
(d) Very rarely, a lightning stroke.
(e) Foggy weather, defect in runway etc.
5. Problems related with emergency evacuation of the craft –
Emergency evacuation is not a matter of concern for civil aviation. In conventional method of low altitude evacuation the dangers were less and were limited to non-functioning of parachute causing a rapid forceful fatal impact with the ground, sudden jerk during the opening of the parachute, sudden unconsciousness during the descent and being covered and suffocated by the parachute after landing. In high altitude evacuation and parachuting, everything occurs without manual operation. For the pilot, the arrangement is that, he is ejected out of the cockpit forcefully, just after the opening of the cockpit canopy. The parachute system gradually acts during the fall. Here hazards may involve
1. Failure of the canopy to open in time.
2. The force of an ejection may not be tolerated by the evacuee.
3. During descent from a high altitude, anoxia may prove fatal.
4. Parachute opening may cause a jerky shock here also.
5. Rotational movement of the body around its own axis may take severe form.
6. Danger from the landing impact arises when the parachute does not work due to drop from a lower than necessary altitude.