In light of recent accidents that underscore the dangers of hypoxia, operators might want to hear the dangers for themselves. A 2008 recording of a pair of Learjet pilots who nearly lost control of their aircraft illustrates the threat that hypoxia poses. In the recording something is clearly wrong with the pilots, but they struggled to make their problem and their intentions known to a Cleveland Center controller, who figured the problem out on his own and instructed the pilots to descend.
As concerns grow over whether recent accidents involved hypoxia, including the TBM900 crash on Friday, pilots might wonder about simple tools to help them detect when hypoxia is imminent or occurring. Though pressurized aircraft have alarms that warn when cabin altitude climbs too high, the ubiquitous mobile devices that most pilots carry can also pitch in to help.
By the time hypoxia is detected, it’s often too late, and the higher the cabin altitude, the less time pilots have to realize that they need to don oxygen masks.
The U.S. Air Force approved a resumption of flight operations by the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, ending a four-month standdown ordered after pilots experienced symptoms of hypoxia. The suspected source of the problem, the aircraft’s onboard oxygen generation system (Obogs), remains under study.
Altitude chamber training is now being offered by MedAire at Arizona State University. The Tempe, Ariz.-based medical emergency response firm said the stand-alone, five- to six-hour course–available on demand–costs $995 per person and covers physiology, hypoxia, oxygen systems, altitude sickness and the physical effects of flight and decompression.
For aviators and their passengers, oxygen means life at the high altitudes traversed by modern aircraft. True high-altitude passenger flight wasn’t really practicable until large-cabin pressurization was introduced during the halcyon days of aeronautical development surrounding World War II, most notably aboard the Boeing 307 Stratoliner and Lockheed Constellation transports and Boeing B-29 bomber.
RAYTHEON BEECH KING AIR B200, WERNADINGA STATION, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA, SEPT. 4, 2000–Investigators were unable to find the cause of the pilot’s apparent hypoxia incapacitation.
The good news about the proliferation of new high-altitude airplanes–turbocharged piston or turbine–is that they offer users the chance to experience the increased efficiency of an engine that likes flying where the air is thin.
Van Nuys, Calif.-based Corporate Air Parts is offering a new hypoxia training course to civilian pilots. Training includes a video segment and two 15- to 20-minute
FlightSafety International and the Mayo Clinic have teamed to develop a new training program for hypoxia awareness. Under the contract, FlightSafety will install Mayo-designed training equipment at some of its learning centers.
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