This 80 cm × 50 cm oil on wood painting depicts a Royal Air Force (RAF) Harrier that has taken off from the Royal Navy (RN) aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. The painting was commissioned by Group Captain Tom Lyons, a fast-jet pilot and RAF Inspector of Flight Safety, to celebrate his time as chief test pilot and his heavyweight Harrier trials on aircraft carriers (V. Thomas, personal communication). The Harrier was the world’s first vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) jet aircraft—made unique by the Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine that provided vectored thrust using four rotating nozzles. The Harrier entered service with the RAF in 1969 and with the RN as the Sea Harrier in 1980. The painting epitomizes the statement in this journal that the armed forces operate in a particularly arduous physical and psychological environment . The account of an RAF Harrier pilot who flew in the Falklands War highlights the danger associated with their task—‘to serve as attrition replacements for Sea Harriers shot down on operations’ . Even in peacetime, flying at high speed in all weather conditions and in close combat exercises is not without risk of losing aircraft and aircrew. View largeDownload slide © image courtesy of Tim Nolan View largeDownload slide © image courtesy of Tim Nolan In 2000, the RN and RAF squadrons were combined as Joint Force Harrier (JFH) to be deployable from aircraft carriers, RAF stations and deployed air bases, operating in both air defence (fighter) and ground attack roles—being among the military’s most frequently deployed assets. Between 1993 and its retirement in 2010, the Harrier uniquely flew in all operations where the UK employed fast-jet offensive support . The armed forces have not been immune to outsourcing (support roles being ‘civilianized’) and downsizing at a time of greater overseas commitments—a prime example of doing more with less. The subject in the background is HMS Illustrious, one of three aircraft carriers launched between 1977 and 1981. ‘Lusty’ and HMS Ark Royal were built by Swan Hunter’s in Wallsend and HMS Invincible by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness before competition from Asia contributed to UK shipbuilding’s decline. One hundred and thirty-four vessels left UK shipyards in 1976 compared with just four in 2011 . HMS Illustrious accommodated over 1000 crew. Wherever aircraft operate, a range of personnel provide essential support, i.e. armourers, airframe or avionics en- gineers, suppliers who provide aircrew equipment assemblies (personal protective equipment), caterers, medical officers etc. All military personnel can face round the clock readiness or operations, temperature extremes, armed conflict etc. Each trade may be exposed to specific occupational hazards, which provides military doctors with comprehensive occupational medicine experience. Many military personnel are exposed to noise, and the risk can be greater for pilots who also risk spatial disorientation and exposure to altitude (reduced ambient pressure and partial pressure of oxygen). Harriers built from the mid-1980s introduced cutting-edge technology to replace oxygen cylinders (to supplement breathing air) with on-board oxygen generation systems, which use crystalline zeolite as a molecular sieve to trap nitrogen and concentrate oxygen . Pilots in single-seat aircraft such as Harrier, Typhoon and also the new Lightning II (F-35) that will equip the new Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers face higher mental workload by fulfilling the tasks of pilot, navigator and weapon system operator. Problems associated with flying fast jets include motion sickness and long-term (>1 s) acceleration. Motion sickness is provoked by sensory dissonance mainly between the visual and the vestibular systems. It is common in trainee pilots; most adapt through repeated exposure, although prolonged leave or lack of flying currency may provoke temporary recurrence. Faced with performing safety-critical tasks, the malaise that precedes nausea can be sufficient to impair performance. For those chronically affected, the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine desensitization programme that incrementally increases exposure to provocative motion returns >80% to flying duties . Motion sickness is more common in navigators (and doctors gaining first-hand experience of the stresses of flight). The back seat of the Phantom aircraft that the artist flew me in afforded limited sideways view and a forward view of static objects, i.e. the back of the pilot’s ejector seat and the radar screen, while the semicircular ear canals sense acceleration in three orthogonal axes—laterally (x), fore-aft (y) and vertically (z). Exposure to sustained headwards acceleration with inadequate gravity (G) protection (e.g. anti-G straining manoeuvres; inflatable anti-G trousers/suits and pressure breathing) can cause G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) or almost loss of consciousness (A-LOC) due to cerebral hypotension as blood pools in the lower limbs. Agile fast jets can pull, but most critically sustain, man- oeuvres which subject aircrew to between −3 and +9 Gz. In a survey among RAF aircrew, almost 15% of respondents reported experiencing at least one episode of G-LOC and 32% reported at least one episode of A-LOC . The maritime environment is also hazardous. Sailors may experience motion sickness, especially in rough seas with extremes of pitching and rolling, but again this is more common in those not habitually exposed, e.g. ground forces deployed to ships. Pilots who retain adaptation to motion associated with flying may still experience sea sickness when they are first deployed on board an aircraft carrier due to the different environmental stimuli. Deck personnel work among noisy helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft; the latter possibly using catapults and arresting wires for take-off and landing, which present a risk of injury. Flight deck personnel on board US aircraft carriers have been exposed to a time-weighted average of 109 dBA over an average 11.5 h working day with around 20% demonstrating hearing impairment even prior to the introduction of the noisier F-35 aircraft . Studies on board US aircraft carriers have reported injury rates of around 3–4/10000 person days (slightly higher than industry), slips, trips and falls being the commonest causes , with more than one-third being lost time injuries . Recreational injuries were less frequent but contributed disproportionately more to lost duty time . This year (2018) marks the centenary of the RAF , and the RN’s new Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers are undergoing sea trials , so it’s timely that the Art and Occupation series includes this example of military art. Military and aviation art comes in various forms—open-ended high-volume prints, limited edition signed prints and, as is the case here, commissioned paintings. The artist Tim Nolan is a former RAF pilot who flew Jet Provost, Vulcan, Hunter, Hawk and Phantom aircrafts. He also spent many weekends entertaining crowds at air displays by flying the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfires and Hurricanes . This brings rare authority to his paintings and makes them much sought after by former colleagues and serving aircrew. Tim began painting aircraft towards the end of his career—mainly for colleagues, and he continues to paint in retirement after his post-RAF career as an airline pilot. References 1. Braithwaite M, Nicholson G, Thornton Ret al. Armed Forces occupational health—a review. Occup Med (Lond) 2009; 59: 528– 538. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed 2. Pook J. RAF Harrier Ground Attack—Falklands . Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Books Ltd, 2007. 3. Golledge A. Operations in the Harrier GR7. In: The RAF Harrier Story, 22 March 2005 . Northmoor, UK: Royal Air Force Historical Society, 2006; 93– 100. https://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/F0DDDED9_5056_A318_A866494E57000B24.pdf ( 17 September 2017, date last accessed). 4. Milmo D. The decline of the UK shipbuilding industry was not inevitable. The Guardian . London, UK. 6 November 2013. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/06/uk-shipbuilding-industry-bae-portsmouth ( 17 September 2017, date last accessed). 5. Ernsting J. The RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine 1945–1994—contributions to aviation and flight safety. R Air Force Hist Soc J 2008; 43: 18– 53. https://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/F16D6325_5056_A318_A8DEC9BA3B8A1157.pdf ( 17 September 2017, date last accessed). 6. Slungaard E, McLeod J, Green NDC, Kiran A, Newham DJ, Harridge SDR. Incidence of G-induced loss of consciousness and almost loss of consciousness in the Royal Air Force. Aerosp Med Hum Perform 2017; 88: 550– 555. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed 7. Rovig GW, Bohnker BK, Page JC. Hearing health risk in a population of aircraft carrier flight deck personnel. Mil Med 2004; 169: 429– 432. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed 8. Parrish DK, Olsen CH, Thomas RJ. Aircraft carrier personnel mishap and injury rates during deployment. Mil Med 2005; 170: 387– 394. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed 9. Krentz MJ, Li G, Baker SP. At work and play in a hazardous environment: injuries aboard a deployed U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Aviat Space Environ Med 1997; 68: 51– 55. Google Scholar PubMed 10. RAF100. https://www.raf.mod.uk/raf100/ ( 17 September 2017, date last accessed). 11. Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carriers. https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/features/queen-elizabeth-carriers ( 17 September 2017, date last accessed). 12. Tim Nolan Art. https://www.timnolanart.com/about ( 17 September 2017, date last accessed). © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupational Medicine – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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