Diapers for high flyers
The introduction of air-to-air refueling in the Indian Air Force has also prompted some serious brainstorming ? on how the pilots could be helped to empty their bladders while flying for six to seven hours.india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 01:52 IST
The introduction of air-to-air refueling in the Indian Air Force (IAF) may have increased the reach of its fighter fleet but it has also prompted some serious brainstorming — on how the pilots could be helped to empty their bladders while flying for six to seven hours.
The duration of a fighter sortie used to be 45 to 60 minutes before the IL-78 mid-air refuellers were introduced. But now that the sorties are longer, several physical factors — ranging from monotony and lack of in-flight nutrition to irregular biorhythm and fatigue — are affecting the pilots.
While the crew of the IL-78 tanker — with the exception of the air refuelling director who sits isolated at the rear — can get up from their seats, the fighter pilots do not have the luxury of space. During a recent joint exercise with the US Air Force in Alaska, pilots had been forced to wear diapers.
An IAF study report trying to find solutions has suggested the use of specially designed urinary bags for in-flight urination and specially-designed undergarments. The study, was conducted by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bangalore.
Trials have revealed that the need to urinate occurs around five hours into a sortie. However, urination could take place earlier due to over hydration or sudden uncontrolled urge.
Lower torso stiffness is another problem facing fighter pilots in long flights because they are strapped into the ejection seat. Special exercises have been suggested while flying to prevent hips, knees or ankles from “going to sleep”.
The study has also pointed out the need to have a standard survival kit for pilots since long hauls have made local flying zones irrelevant.