Flight Surgeon

Flight Surgeon

Why become a US Naval Flight Surgeon?

For the person who likes to fly and wants a bit of adventure, being a naval flight surgeon presents numerous opportunities for new and unique experiences, travel, and individualism in the daily practice of medicine. Most importantly, the practice of medicine with the operational forces qualifies you to say that you are in the Navy. An operational tour gives you an understanding of sea power and the problems of Sailors and Marines that cannot be taught in the classroom. Leadership, initiative, self-assurance, planning ability, foresight, teaching ability, and organizational skill are all required of the physician working with the operating forces. After one tour in the naval aviation community, you will remember your association with this achievement-oriented, highly competitive group of individuals as one of the highlights of both your military and medical careers.

What is the responsibility of a flight surgeon?

The naval flight surgeon practices preventive medicine first and foremost. He or she is the natural interface between the practice of medicine, the science of safety, and the profession of aviation. Through successful aviation medicine programs the flight surgeon promotes aviation safety, decreasing the potential for aircraft accidents. This is accomplished by a dedicated search for those problems - physical, mental, environmental, and man-made, which compromise safety in the air and in the workplace. To accomplish the job, the naval flight surgeon makes regular visits to squadron spaces, constantly assessing squadron esprit, safety consciousness, and the mental health of the aircrew and critical support personnel. Additionally, the flight surgeon flies with the squadron as aircrew to observe in-flight stressors and crew coordination. The process of promoting safety begins with the uncompromising selection of quality personnel. It extends through their training and into the fleet workplace, including the ground support personnel who ready the planes for flight. The training of a naval flight surgeon, therefore, includes subjects ranging from the physiology of flight to industrial medicine, environmental hazards and the investigation of aircraft accidents. The responsibilities of a naval flight surgeon in today’s fast-moving, highly sophisticated operational forces are broad and ever-changing. The naval flight surgeon recognizes that safety hazards do not come to the clinic for identification but must be sought out. Thus, the establishment of good rapport with operational personnel is essential to safe completion of the operational mission.

Flight Surgeon's Course Curriculum

The Naval Flight Surgeon Course is designed to prepare Navy physicians for duty with the operational forces of the Navy and Marine Corps aviation communities. The graduate of the program is expected to practice this aeromedical specialty in an operational setting with the purpose of ensuring combat readiness of the unit. Preventive medicine, primary care, contingency planning and medical administrative duties, whether ashore or afloat, are all important roles that the naval flight surgeon can expect to perform. The Navy's flight surgeon training course is twenty- four weeks long. Classes convene three times a year at the Naval Aerospace Medicine Institute.

Naval Flight Surgeon Program Recruiting Trifold

Phase I Training (API/NASTP Training)

Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API): The first phase of this course is a six-week flight orientation and ground school at the Naval Aviation Schools Command. A prerequisite to flight training, this segment consists of 177.5 hours of academic and survival instruction condensed into 40 days of training. Basic ground school topics include aircraft engine systems, flight rules and regulations, meteorology, aerodynamics, navigation, aircrew coordination, and fitness. Aviation physiology, land survival, and water survival training is also included. This phase of instruction is conducted side by side Navy and Marine Corps aviator students. This section is challenging to students both physically and mentally. Physical Fitness Requirements: Training demands good physical conditioning in order to meet the water survival and aviation physiology requirements. Swimming ability should exceed basic staying afloat skills. For those individuals whose swimming skills are weak, prior training should be considered.

Phase II Training (Flight Training)

The second phase of instruction is a ten-week flight indoctrination syllabus with Training Air Wing FIVE at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Florida. Training is conducted in the fixed-wing Beechcraft T-6 Texan II and the Bell Jet Ranger TH-57 helicopter. The mission of the Aerospace Medicine Specialist (AMS) Training Curriculum is to provide exposure to the various flight regimes and associated phenomenon of aeromedical concern. Each module of the instruction provides an introduction to the basic flight experiences encountered in daily training and fleet aircraft operations. Particular emphasis is placed on basic motor flight skills and familiarization with the physiological stressors associated with aviation specific evolutions. The primary goal of flight training is to expose the student flight surgeon to the hazards and stressors of flight from the perspective of the aircrewman. Each phase of the physiologists training satisfies a need for knowledge and experience which assures his or her credibility in the line aviation community. It provides the background necessary to provide essential aeromedical insight into aviation safety and to establish good rapport with squadron personnel, thereby, increasing the effectiveness of the flight surgeon in his or her assignment.

Phase III Training (Academics)

The third nine weeks are spent in the classrooms and clinics on the campus of NAMI. Intense didactic instruction in environmental physiology familiarizes the student to the physiologic stresses imposed on the aviator in flight. An operational medicine overview covers topics that are pertinent to not only aviation but to all military medical assignments, augmenting the flight surgeons understanding and appreciation of the mission of the Navy Medical Department. Clinical aeromedical topics in internal medicine, neurology, psychiatry, otorhinolaryngology, and ophthalmology provide the flight surgeon with the understanding of how the aviation environment can affect the physiologic and pathophysiologic processes of the human body. Specific enabling objectives for each clinical course of instruction is provided below:

  • UNIT 1: Envioronmental Physiology - Presents the student with a spectrum of physiologic problems encountered in the hostile aviation environment. Topics covered include: atmospheric physics, physiologic effects of altitude, biodynamics of acceleration, disorientation and visual illusions of flight, motion sickness and radiation biology.
  • UNIT 2: Naval Aviation Medicine - Introduces the student to clinical and administrative aspects specific to practice as a flight surgeon in the Navy. Topics covered include: carrier medicine, aviation life support and ejection systems, night vision and lasers, pilot selection, safety and mishap investigation techniques, human factors, crash survivability, physical standards, exams and waivers, and aeromedical evacuation.
  • UNIT 3: Operational Medicine - Acquaints the student with preventive and clinical medicine as practiced by the flight surgeon as an integral member of an operational unit. Topics covered include: medical organization and administration, enlisted evaluation and promotion, nuclear and chemical weapons, operational obstetrics/gynecology, tropical medicine, sexually transmitted diseases, operational orthopedics and dermatology, occupational health and safety, and telemedicine.
  • UNIT 4: Aerospace Otorhinolaryngology - Reviews anatomy, diagnosis and treatment of common ENT problems. Special emphasis is placed on physical qualifications of aviation personnel and barometric problems in aviation. Clinical work includes ENT evaluation, radiographic evaluation of the paranasal sinuses, audiometry and tympanometry, nasal fracture reduction, sinus irrigation, myringotomy, and control of epistaxis and other minor surgical clinical procedures.
  • UNIT 5: Aerospace Ophthalmology/Optometry - Fundamentals of visual system, including physiologic aspects, detection and correction of vision anomalies, instruction in aviation vision testing and visual standards, and further study in the diagnosis and treatment of ophthalmologic disorders.
  • UNIT 6: Aerospace Psychiatry - Reviews normal and abnormal personality development, psychological testing and basic diagnostic entities. Stresses peculiar to tactical aviation, particularly the carrier environment and motivation and mal adaption to flying, are emphasized.
  • UNIT 7: Aerospace Internal Medicine/Neurology - Provides instruction in evaluation, consultation and aeromedical disposition of internal medicine problems, emphasizing cardiovascular and pulmonary problems and diagnosis, treatment and disposition of loss of consciousness, seizure, head and spine trauma, and headache.

Physical Fitness Requirements

An applicant must hold a commission as a U.S. Navy medical officer or be sponsored by a foreign military service. Flight surgeon training demands good physical conditioning in order to meet the water survival and aviation physiology requirements. Swimming ability should exceed basic staying afloat skills. For those individuals whose swimming skills are weak, prior training should be considered.

Flight Surgeon Assignments

A minimum two-year utilization tour is required after training. This allows the new flight surgeon time to practice and perfect their newly acquired skills. There are more than 260 flight surgeon billets in Spain, Italy, Japan, Bermuda, the United Kingdom, and all over the United States. Normally, a list of available billets is announced about midway through the six-month course.

International Students

Applicants from other countries interested in this course must apply for the training through their military service and the Security Assistance officer at the U.S. Embassy. A prospective student must be sponsored by their country's military or work for the country's federal government. He or she must also meet proficiency requirements in the English language and attend specialized English training. The course convenes several times a year, with international students attending alongside the US Navy students. MASL number is P175307; specific information is contained in the Department of the Navy Security Assistance Training Programming Guide. For further information, please call (850) 452-8365 or email nami-imsc@med.navy.mil.

U.S. Naval Residency in Aerospace Medicine

The U.S. Naval Residency in Aerospace Medicine prepares medical officers for broad certification and a rewarding medical career. The practice of Aerospace Medicine focuses on preventive medicine: the study of processes in defined communities or population groups and the stimulation of practices with respect to these communities that advance health and prevent disease and injury. Upon completion of the residency, Aerospace Medicine specialists are expected to be team leaders in aerospace and preventive medicine practice.

Accreditation and Disclosure

Accreditation Statement: The Navy Medicine Professional Development Center (NMPDC), Continuing Medical Education (CME) Department, Bethesda, Maryland is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for Physicians.

The Navy Medicine Professional Development Center (NMPDC) designates this live educational activity for a maximum of (180) AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credits commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure Statement: As a sponsor accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), it is the policy of the Navy Medicine Professional Development Center (NMPDC) to require the disclosure of the existence of any significant financial interest or any other relationships a faculty member or a sponsor has with the manufacturer(s) or any commercial product(s) discussed in an educational presentation, and also to disclose discussions of unlabeled/unapproved uses of drugs or devices during their presentation(s). NMPDC has established policies in place that will identify and resolve all conflicts of interest prior to this educational activity. Detailed disclosure will be made on the date(s) of the activity.