Late last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made changes in the passing score for the once-revered flight physical. Program host Dr. Lee Merritt said the FAA's action violated the military manual for flight surgeons.
According to Stillwagon, a pilot must go through a physical exam twice a year in order to be a captain or first officer. One of the requirements in this physical exam is an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. He noted that a resting ECG test won't show a problem, so a pilot should undergo a stress ECG test.
In the October 2022 version of the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, the FAA widened the EKG parameters beyond the normal range – from a PR max of 0.2 to unlimited. In other words, the aviation authorities didn’t widen the range by a little. They widened it by a lot.
Stillwagon, a former airline captain himself, remarked that airlines want to ensure that potential pilots are truly healthy before hiring them. Thus, airline companies also conduct other tests and look at a pilot's family history before making the offer.
This why the FAA's move is seen by critics as an admission that many airline pilots developed heart conditions after getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It is possible that the industry is now running out of healthy pilots, so the FAA needs to lower its standards in flight physical.
Meanwhile, Merritt remarked that the sudden death of a pilot in the cockpit is a stressful and horrible scenario for an experienced co-pilot. She recounted an instance during her flight to Florida where she saw a third pilot in uniform – aside from the captain and co-pilot – believed to be a backup officer in case either of the two die in mid-air.
Stillwagon emphasized the need for at least one unvaccinated pilot in the cockpit, but he said this may not be possible anymore as the authorities coerced pilots into getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
"They were telling them that this was the safe and right thing to do and that it was going to protect them, the passengers and co-workers," he told Merritt. "We all know that was an absolute lie, and they knew that right from the start."
According to Stillwagon, the COVID-19 vaccine is injuring the cardiovascular systems of pilots either through micro-clotting in their blood vessels or cardiac inflammation affecting their hearts. (Related: As many as 30% of US pilots may have COVID-19 vaccine-induced heart conditions.)
He explained that micro-clotting affects the vessels by clogging the coronary arteries. This leads to angina pain that radiates up into the arm and jaw. Moreover, he mentioned that myocarditis has caused pilots to lose their certifications to fly aircraft.
Healthline defines myocarditis as the inflammation of the heart muscle or myocardium. It adds: "When the myocardium becomes inflamed, its ability to pump blood becomes less effective. This causes problems like an abnormal heartbeat, chest pain, and trouble breathing."
Merritt's guest called for the need to make pilots undergo the D-dimer test to show possible evidence of blood clotting. He also called for a troponin level test to determine any signs of myocarditis.
"If your troponin levels are elevated, there is evidence that you've got damage to the heart muscle," Stillwagon told Merritt. "That won't necessarily ground a pilot either, but it will induce that pilot to search further to find out what's going on."
A definitive diagnosis of myocarditis is going to ground a pilot and the pilot won't be issued a flight certificate even to fly a small aircraft, he added.