Rapid development of military and civil aviation after the 1st world war has triggered the need and conditions for the formation of a number of specialised institutes, ensuring the urgent needs of this new important industry. One of them was the Prague Aeronautical Study Institute, established by the Ministry of Defence in May 1922. Two years later (01. 06. 1924) the Health Section was established, led by major Dominik Čapek, MD. The first aviation physician - later a Division General and University professor - at that time had already a wide experience in this field, acquired during his studies in France, Netherlands and Switzerland, as well. He managed to build up an office, which in addition to the physiological and psychological research of aerial stress has created first rules for the assessment of medical fitness of military and civilian applicants for aviation professions. The Section, equipped since 1920 with a hypobaric chamber, has become an important training centre for those interested in the newly created field from across the Europe. During the Protectorate it was abandoned by the staff, but immediately after the May 1945, a personally enhanced workplace renewed its activity again. For the lack of suitable premises it was forced to split itself into two facilities: the s.c. Aviation Medical Institute and the s.c. Medical Examination Station of Czechoslovak Aviation, respectively. The former facility was engaged in the physiological research and in the examination of medical fitness of civilian aviators, while the other served for the selection and assessment of medical fitness of Air Force members.

   The armament of Air Force with first jet aircraft, unsatisfactory condition of aviation safety and gradual increase in the number of field Flight Surgeons only highlighted the inefficiency of the fragmentation of medical professional forces. Hence, on 1 January 1953 the Institute of Aviation Medicine, Prague was established by the Ministry of National Defence, integrating the research in the field of aviation medicine and hygiene, the health assessment and preventive care for military and civilian aviation personnel and the activities in the field of examination and prevention of aviation disasters. From the very beginning it served as a training centre for aviation medical community and later on also for Air Force pilots.

   Dozens of experienced medical examiners, scientists, engineers and paramedical staff, doing their work not only in the office, but also in the field, grew in the Institute during the following years. As a lasting benefit of this period can be mentioned the forensic medicine and psycho-physiological results of hypoxic and mental stress in pilots during emergency situations, pathogenetic mechanisms of illusions or the objectification of alternating acceleration effects, but also, for example, the rationalization of boarding standards in Air Force. Due to the close connection of Institute´s specialists with military aviation units, as well as with the civil aviation organizations, the physicians had gained specific knowledge on the nature of operational needs in all kinds of aviation. This allowed them to respond flexibly to gradual moderation of health requirements and in certain cases to take the role of a “pioneer” of new procedures. Thus the Institute of Aviation Medicine, Prague was among the first medical facilities in the world, which have acceded to the medication of pilots while retaining their eligibility for air service. Some preventive programs of risk diseases in aviation personnel, designed in the 80s (e. g. ischemic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes) are still in force. Very beneficial proved attention, paid to ongoing provision of specialized offices with the latest aero medical equipment.

   The assessment of airmen's medical fitness based on the principles of evidence based medicine and the respect to fundamental changes in the technological equipment of air operations goes through gradual liberalization. The chance of applicants affected by some disease or functional disorder to obtain a pilot licence increased many times in the last 70 years. However, the guarantee of safe exercise of privileges granted by licence issued to these persons requires a specific procedure, based on assessment of a team of specialists. Even a most experienced individual cannot cope responsively with this task alone. Of course, this trend puts the constantly growing demands on the knowledge and skills of physicians. Therefore for almost 30 years everyone is obliged - in addition to the mandatory specialization and aero medical education - to attend continuous refresher training on current news in aerospace medicine, organized by the Institute's Training Centre.

   In 1966 the Institute of Aviation Medicine, then first in the former Eastern Bloc, has hosted the XVth International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine. On its occasion professor Čapek should be awarded by the Diplôme d´Honneur for his lifelong pioneering work in aviation medicine. Unfortunately, the founder of Czechoslovak aviation medicine and the Institute of Aviation Medicine, has deceased immediately before its opening.

   For its entire existence the Institute's operations were periodically reviewed by the superior authorities. In years 2002 - 2012 it successfully passed three audits of the European Joint Aviation Authorities.

   From its founding to the present the Institute provides a complex base for aero medical training of Air Force pilots, parachutists and divers. The training on special devices (baro chambers, pilot trainer and disorienting simulators or a night vision trainer) can be used also by other professional or amateur interested (mountain-climbers, drivers, police helicopter pilots etc.).

   After fulfilling the specific tasks, determined by the European and national legislation, the Institute possessed some capacity for providing health care to the general population. This was not always the case. In its history the periods of strict prohibition to treat patients outside the aviation organizations or the defense sector alternated with its re-release. Currently the common sense prevailed and thus the quality of medical services, provided in specialized clinics and other departments of the Institute can be assessed by the public at large.

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