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Are you fit to fly?

IMSAFE - If you're not safe, I'm not safe

By Lach Boyd

If you haven’t heard of IMSAFE, then you probably shouldn’t be flying yet.

What is it?

Pretty straight forward – it’s a simple self-awareness checklist designed to assess your personal physical and mental state. If you’re not fit to fly, and you decide to go anyway, not only have you reduced the safety margins of your own flight, but also the safety of everyone else around you!

It’s rather easy to identify which individuals fit into either category:

  1. Those that genuinely conduct an IMSAFE check and make an educated self-assessment prior to flight; or
  2. Those that hear an instructor say “IMSAFE” for flight and the response is “yeah yeah yeah, I’m safe.”

If you fit into Category 1, then this is perfect. Keep going with this and don’t let your standards drop.

If you fit into Category 2, then you’re staring down the barrel of negligence. Likely you haven’t actually made a simple attempt of self-assessment. In a high-consequence industry, why wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to increase safety before you’ve left the building?

The aviation community is substantial. Made up of many, whether it be those working in the sky or ATC, those enjoying a joy flight or the enthusiasts up for a private flight. Not to mention the passengers…

You owe it to yourself and your community to do your due diligence.

So, what does IMSAFE look like? 

For me (and what we teach at TVSA, and throughout CASA guidance material), it’s the following:


Am I feeling sick or have I had any recent illnesses?

How your inflight performance is affected will depend on what illness you have. Having a cold or flu, for example, can be hard to manage with changes of altitude. The pressure changes can cause pain in the nasal cavity and, ideally, you wouldn’t fly in that condition.


Am I taking any medication?

Taking any prescription or non-prescription medication can present side-effects (like drowsiness). Not feeling side-effects on ground, does not mean you will not experience them with altitude. The best way to be sure and safe of your medication is to consult your DAME. The CASA website also can provide a list of some permitted and prohibited medications.


Am I under any stress or anxiety?

It is completely normal to experience stress and anxiety. Stress is a regular part of life, and stress in small amounts can actually be beneficial, but above average amounts (as well as too little stress!) can affect us negatively. There are 3 main types of stress to be aware of:

  • Physiological
  • Environmental
  • Psychological

Always analyse your stress levels before flying and try to develop some positive coping mechanisms to deal with them.


How long ago did you have alcohol?

No brainer this one. Whilst CASA have particular legal requirements. It is recommended to not fly for at least 24 hours after alcohol consumption. A hangover can be very dangerous! They’re bad enough on a couch, let alone in a cockpit.


Have I had enough rest?

Fatigue will seriously impair your ability to respond immediately and effectively. Sleep requirements vary from one person to another, so it is important that you know what your body needs. Not enough sleep isn’t the only factor that causes fatigue. Stress is a huge factor also. It will undoubtedly take its toll on you.

My partner and I had our first born child December of 2020. Managing sleep has become really important for us and is always forefront of mind. It’s never going to be easy! 

Eating / Emotions

Am I in the right frame of mind to fly? Have I had a proper meal? Am I hydrated?

Eating enough food before flight can restore energy levels for your body and keep your brain functioning at a high level.

There’s nothing to stop an individual from adding their own self checks before a flight. Everyone knows themselves better than others will. So if you are aware of something that often hinders you during flight, try to find something that will help combat this.

Remember, think about yourself but you also need to think about others.

Safe skies for all. 


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Is it a good time to pursue a career as a Pilot?

For the past few years, securing a pipeline of new pilots has been a primary concern for airlines around the world. In a 2019 poll of flight operations leaders, 62 percent listed a shortage of qualified pilots as a key risk. The root cause of the coming shortage varies by region: in the United States and in the Pacific regions which includes Australia, it’s an aging workforce facing mandatory retirement. In China and other regions where a burgeoning middle class is demanding air travel, the struggle is to expand capacity fast enough.

The impact also depends on the class or carrier, with 83 percent of regional carriers finding it challenging to recruit talent compared with 22 percent of low-cost carriers. Despite these differences, there were few regions in the work that weren’t dealing with how to secure enough pilots to fuel future growth.

Nearly overnight, with the outbreak of COVID-19, the conversation shifted from shortage to surplus. For the carriers that were struggling with pilot supply, this has provided a momentary reprieve. 

The return of demand:


A major question facing the aviation industry is when demand will return. For passenger recovery, estimates range from 2022 to 2024 and beyond. For pilots however, demand is driven by aircraft departures and utilisation rather than passengers. The global in-service fleet has already recovered in size to 76 percent of pre-COVID levels. In the Asia Pacific region, where the outbreak was earlier and better controlled, the in-service fleet is already at 89 percent. While utilisation and resulting block hours still lag in historic levels globally, the industry expects the demand for pilots to proceed the recovery of passenger growth by two to three times.

THE Emergence of the pilot shortage:

The most important question is not whether a pilot shortage will re-emerge, but when it will occur and how large the gap will be between supply and demand. Based on a modest recovery scenario, it is believed a global pilot shortage will emerge in certain regions no later than 2023 and most probably before. However, with a more rapid recovery and greater supply shocks, this could be felt as early as late this year. Regarding the magnitude, in our most likely scenarios, there is a global gap of 34,000 pilots by 2025. This could be as high as 50,000 in the most extreme scenarios. Eventually, the impact of furloughs, retirements, and defections will create very real challenges for even some of the biggest carriers.

What the airlines can do:

For airlines who are currently struggling to right-size the operations and remain solvent, the idea of a pilot shortage is far from the top of their mind. However, it has the real potential to limit their ability to regrow and rebuild their operation in the coming years. There are two main areas where airlines can help to reduce the impact of future pilot shortages: 

  • Reinforce the pipeline: continue to invest in training programs ad pilot recruitment, including resolving emerging financial challenges.
  • Engage the workforce: Recognise the likelihood of increased competition, particularly for newly training pilots, and actively engage to improve recruitment.
How quickly airlines can regrow their operation will be guided by how quickly they can regrow their pilots. Those that take action now increase the agility of the airline to capture demand as it recovers.

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