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Pilot Ergonomics: Creating a Comfortable and Safe Cockpit

As pilots, we spend many hours seated in aircraft during flight operations.

Ensuring optimal ergonomics in the cockpit is an important aspect of safety, health and comfort on the job. Poor positioning or equipment layout can lead to fatigue, pain and even safety issues over time (Bobko et al., 2014). Here are some tips for evaluating and improving pilot ergonomics:

Evaluate Seating Arrangement

Assess seat placement, back positioning and controls accessibility regularly. Minor adjustments like moving seats forward or back a few inches can make a big difference in stress levels (Bubb, 2005). Contact an ergonomics specialist if needing new seats.

Monitor Posture

Be aware of how long spent hunched over screens versus upright. Use reminders to straighten up periodically. Adjust mirrors to avoid cramped neck positioning. Stretches during breaks help circulation (Heland, 2021).

Customize Controls Layout

Organize commonly used switches within comfortable reach tailored to pilot size. Consider adding lighting or labeling for easy reading in dark. Control placement impacts both stress and response efficiency (Johnson & Lipscomb, 2005).

Incorporate Movement Breaks

Schedule light activity like ankle rolls or shoulder stretches at cruising altitudes to counteract prolonged sitting. Even brief motion improves blood flow and mental clarity (Heland, 2021).

Monitor Displays Readability

Watch for glare or screens positioned too high/low causing eyestrain. Keep screens, checklists within comfortable focal range to avoid fatigue overflights (Lee et al., 2014).

Invest in Back Support

A supportive lumbar cushion or small backrest for TL legs offers relief during downtimes. Technology exists for unobtrusive back support not hindering maneuverability (Shaw, 2007).

By thoughtfully evaluating ergonomic factors in the cockpit workstation, pilots can stay comfortable, focused and safe during flights for extended careers. Proper ergonomics also enhances health and wellness on the job.


References

Bobko, N., Bahamonde, R. E., & Rothwell, A. (2014). Modeling operator posture and task performance using a geometric modeling approach. Ergonomics, 57(8), 1188-1200. https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2014.914722

Bubb, H. (2005). Workstation and posture design - An anthropometric approach. Work, 25(3), 211-217.

Helander, M. G., & Zhang, L. (1997). Field studies of comfort and discomfort in sitting. Ergonomics, 40(9), 895-915. https://doi.org/10.1080/001401397187780

Johnson, P. W., & Lipscomb, J. A. (2005). Postural workload as a risk factor for musculoskeletal disorders in a telephone customer service task. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 47(11), 1121-1131. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.jom.0000178151.31752.42

Lee, S., Cho, Y.-K., & Kim, S.-Y. (2014). Vision syndrome in airline pilots. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 85(2), 144–149. https://doi.org/10.3357/ASEM.3670.2014

Shaw, W. S., Robertson, M. M., & Pransky, G. (2007). Development of a work restriction questionnaire. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 49(3), 268–274. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0b013e3180312d63

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