Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

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Background: United States Air Force (USAF) personnel and retirees participate in aviation both on and off duty. Because aviation mortality is investigated by aircraft ownership, the combined mortality rate for on and off duty flying is unknown, as is aircraft-associated mortality among USAF retirees.

Methods: Mortality data were obtained from the Air Force Mortality Registry (AFMR) and publically available datasets. Air Transport deaths were defined following the Tenth International Classification of Diseases. USAF Active Duty (AD), Guard (ANG), Reserve (ARC) components, aggregate, and retiree rates (1988-2008) were calculated. Sex, age and rank-adjusted AD and retiree rates were compared with US rates from the National Center for Health Statistics (2001-2008).

Results: The accidental aviation mortality rate (1988-2008) for all USAF personnel was 4.72/100,000 person years (py), 2.34 (95% Confidence Interval [CI] 2.02, 2.71) times more than USAF retirees. ARC members had the highest aviation fatality rate (9.48/100,000 py). USAF male enlisted retirees (2001-2008) did not have more aviation deaths [Standardized Morality Ratio (SMR): 1.23 (95% CI: 0.83, 1.77)] than the US population: male AD officers had higher SMR: 20.32 (95% CI: 14.45, 27.79) vs. male retired officers: SMR 7.69 (95% CI: 5.90, 9.86) and male AD enlisted: SMR 5.08 (3.42, 7.25).

Conclusions: Aircraft death rates differed by component, sex, rank, and retirement status. Among USAF components, ARC members had the highest aviation mortality. Reasons for these differences and specific mitigation strategies should be investigated. Off-duty aircraft death rates among USAF members are notable, particularly among male officer retirees.

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