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Activity title

Unexplained Physiologic Events in High-Performance Aircraft

Activity Reference



Human Factors and Medicine

Security Classification




Activity type


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Aircraft, Aviation, Emergency, Event, Fighter, Medicine, Physiologic Incident, Physiology


Tactical aviation has a long history of physiologic episodes associated with flight in challenging environments. However, in the last 5-10 years pilots of multiple high-performance aircraft (fighter/attack jets and trainers) have experienced a higher-than-expected rate of these episodes, many with no apparent cause. These unexplained physiologic events (UPEs) continue to pervade high-performance USAF/USN and international military aviation despite the best efforts of local and system-level investigations. While UPEs across platforms bear many apparent similarities, the current process of local investigations has produced numerous and disparate theories to explain these UPEs. This has triggered a multitude of (often parallel) research studies, consultative efforts, and procedural changes. While these activities share the goal of understanding and mitigating the conditions that contribute to UPEs, limited coordination between nations, disciplines, and platforms has impeded progress. In addition, most UPE investigations focus on individual incidents and are generally stove-piped within a platform; investigations do not efficiently and effectively share information.


The overarching objective of this activity is to reduce or eliminate the impact of UPEs in military tactical aviation. To that end, this activity will seek to establish a common understanding of UPEs, including causal and contributory factors, preventive measures, in-flight actions, and post-flight response.


(1) Develop consensus classification, terminology, and diagnostic criteria for UPEs (2) Coordinate research studies to understand potential causation of physiological events as a means to direct mitigation strategies (3) Produce recommendations on updated physiological training for aircrew and medical support (4) Develop consensus statements on requirements and appropriate testing, verification and validation (including flight clearance) (5) Review NATO Standards, testing, procedures, training and offer suggested updates/revisions (6) Compare/contrast LSS and aircrew experience across airframes (to the extent possible and accounting for rules governing release of information for each involved airframe) (7) Create international PE database (if feasible due to national rules)

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