Retirement of fighter pilots with incidentally detected illnesses: A decision analytic model

Jochanan Benbassat*, Joseph Ribak, Moshe Gross, Igal Shochat, Paul Froom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decisions regarding professional fitness after an incidental detection of a clinical disorder are often problematic. The added risk of an occupational error related to the detected disorder may be smaller than the risk of an error due to lack of experience if a veteran is replaced by a novice. In this paper, we examine the choice between grounding or granting a waiver to an experienced fighter pilot with an incidental finding of premature ventricular contractions. The decision considers the probability of sudden incapacitation during flight and of pilot error-related air accidents in novices and veterans. Although deliberately biased in favor of grounding the veteran, the analysis indicates that the risk of sudden death or incapacitation in an experienced fighter pilot with an incidentally detected illness should be increased ten-fold to 46-fold to justify his or her replacement by a novice. In the specific case considered, the analysis suggests that the risk of an air accident due to sudden death or incapacitation of a veteran with incidentally detected premature ventricular contractions is similar to the estimated added risk of an error-related air accident if she or he is grounded and replaced by a novice. When reliable data on the frequency of human error by age and experience become available, the proposed model may be applied to other situations in which trained professionals develop a potentially disabling disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-517
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Occupational Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1989
Externally publishedYes


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