RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine

RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine

The Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine was a British aviation medicine research unit between 1945 and 1994.

Early Days

The RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine (IAM) was opened on 30 April 1945 by the Princess Royal. It was located on land to the south side of the Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire, and was successor to the wartime RAF Physiological Laboratory. Initially having separate sections for acceleration, altitude, biochemistry, biophysics, personal equipment and teaching, its mandate was to conduct both pure and applied research in support of flying personnel. Initially run by Dr Brian Matthews, Group Captain Bill Stewart was appointed head in 1946 [GIBSON, T. M.; HARRISON, M. H. Into Thin Air : A History of Aviation Medicine in the RAFRobert Hale. 1984, First Edition. (ISBN 070901290X) ] .

The IAM gained a decompression chamber (moved from the Physiological Laboratory) in 1945, and this was supplemented by a climatic chamber in 1952, and human centrifuge in 1955 (the latter facility is still in operation and was designated a Grade 2 Listed Building in August 2007).


The IAM became a world leading centre for aviation medicine research in the 1960s and 1970s, gaining additional facilities, and continuing an active flight research programme that commenced in World War II. Research into protection against the effects of high altitude, high G force, head and cold stress, noise and vibration, sleep and wakefulness, spatial disorientation, vision, aviation psychology and human error, and aircraft accident investigation dominated activities at the IAM. Much work was done to develop and improve aircrew life support equipment.

Latter history

The old IAM ceased to exist in 1994, when many research staff and facilities were transferred to the DERA Centre for Human Sciences. In the RAF, the spiritual successor to the IAM is the RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine, which opened in 1998 at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire, and conducts training and operational support for RAF aircrew.


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