Boarding a flight can feel like stepping into a time capsule.
Early December last year, a lawsuit was filed against frontier airlines alegging discrimination against women. This was because they had to deal with nursing and piloting at the same time. This isn’t the first lawsuit in the industry nor it will be the last. Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s still part of the internal thought process of hiring managers and often the hidden reason why women pilots are hired less. Aviation jobs & piloting by its very own nature is a unique profession.
Pregnancy is an ordinary physiological condition and not a sickness; however, it may be, related physiological changes that may influence a pilot’s performance. Flying while pregnant may introduce a hazard to the fetus during especially during the initial trimester. Risk factors may vary from one individual to another and with regard to the type of flying in question. Some women are more at risk than others. Each pregnancy should be reviewed on an individual basis by both an Obstetrician and an Aeromedical Examiner(AME).
Both sides need to understand that the unique environment of a cockpit has some built-in limitations that cannot, and should not, change. This limitation might jeopardize the safety of passengers as well as the pilot herself. So are you fit to fly if you are pregnant?
Even if it is considered unfit. There have been no cases of early-stage pregnant women involving in accidents
Based on Medical Requirement By Civil Aviation Authority Of Malaysia, pregnancy is considered a decrease in medical fitness. She has to inform the authority within the period of 21 days &
- not exercise the privileges of the licence and ratings until she has
satisfied the medical examiner that her medical fitness has been
restored to the standard as specified in these Directives.
Once a pregnancy is confirmed, the pilot should report to her own Aviation Medical Examiners. It is advisable, not only to minimize risk to the pilot and fetus but also to ensure flight safety, that her obstetrician/gynecologist is aware of the type of flying she intends to do.
CEO directives Medical Pregnancy
(1) License holder not to act as a member of flight crew once she knows or has
reason to believe that she is pregnant.
(2) For Class 3 applicants with a low-risk uncomplicated pregnancy,
evaluated the fit assessment should be limited to the period until the end
of the 34th week of gestation.
(3) During the gestational period, precautions should be taken for the timely
relief of an Air Traffic Control Officer in the event of early onset of labor or other
(4) Following confinement or termination of pregnancy the applicant shall
not be permitted to exercise the privileges of her license until she has
undergone re-evaluation in accordance with best medical practice and it
has been determined that she is able to safely exercise the privileges of
her license and ratings.
POSSIBLE INCAPACITATION RISK
- Miscarriage – approximately 15 percent of embryos will spontaneously abort during the first trimester. By the 11th or 12th week of pregnancy the chances of miscarriage decrease to approximately 1-2%.
- Extrauterine Pregnancy – Ectopic pregnancy, also known as tubal pregnancy, is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus.
- Morning Sickness – Nausea or vomiting in early pregnancy
- Hypotension – Low blood pressure
- Syncope – loss of consciousness
- Lower G-tolerance – G Tolerance is lower compared to when she was not pregnant.
- Anemia – Low red blood cell count ( Haemoglobin)
- Dehydration – During pregnancy, there will be an increase in urine production
- Hypoxia -It is known that Fetal Hemoglobin has a much higher affinity for oxygen than the mother’s hemoglobin. Generally, it is believed adequate fetal oxygenation occurs at altitudes under 10,000 feet.
Besides that, based on EASA international, Cosmic radiation is linked to elevated numbers of chromosome aberrations which may cause intellectual development disorders, developmental anomalies, congenital anomalies, growth restrictions, and Down Syndrome. These changes may also lead to miscarriage.
The average annual radiation exposure for a pilot is between 2-5 mSv. This can be dangerous to pregnant pilots as the radiation exposure to a fetus should not exceed 1.0mSv, according to the ICRP (International Commission Of Radiation Protection)
Postpartum depression is a lot more powerful and lasts longer. It follows about 15% of births, first-time moms, and those who’ve given birth before. It can cause severe mood swings, exhaustion, and a sense of hopelessness. The intensity of those feelings can make it difficult to care for your baby or yourself.
The pilot is allowed to resume her working schedule once she is verified fit by the Aviation Medical Examiners.
Airlines & Bonds
As written in their contract if a pilot becomes pregnant during the bond period, it is considered as breaking the bond. So what will happen if they break the bond?
If the terms of the Employment bond are violated, then the company can send a legal notice asking the employee to report to duty immediately, failing which she is required to pay the sum specified in the bond. But the airlines now are becoming more helpful & lenient towards female pilots. Which they will be receiving a basic salary plus minimum flying hours allowance for the first 2 months after declaring pregnancy.
The remaining months will be a no-pay leave till they return back to work. They will start fresh with base & sim check then only can return back online as a pilot in duty. But this is different for different airlines. Some airlines pay full maternity leave. so you may consider referring back to your job contract.
Some pilots prefer to do ground duties as a source of income during this maternity period. This will help them to balance their life if they are single mum.
Reasons why airlines have this rule because they rule you as in terms of. We pay for you so you return back in full for us. That’s all about pregnancy in piloting. See you guys in the next post.
More about Medical: Medical Requirement For Malaysian Pilots Explained