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Examining Hypoxia

Title and Subtitle: Examining Hypoxia: A Survey of Pilotsí Experiences and Perspectives on Altitude Training

June 2003

Abstract: Federal aviation regulations and Advisory Circulars (ACs) provide requirements and guidance for high-altitude physiological training for pilots and crewmembers. Pilots and crewmembers of flights exceeding 25,000 feet/mean sea level (msl) are required to complete ground training in high-altitude physiology, including hypoxia training; however, regulations do not require altitude chamber training. The present research examined the training experiences and perceptions of pilots about the need for hypoxia training and altitude chamber training. Method: Sixty-seven male pilots attending a meeting on aviation safety completed a survey assessing their experiences and perceptions of hypoxia training. All pilots indicated that they flew professionally and had logged hours flying for business during the six months prior to the survey date. Results: Sixty-two pilots reported receiving hypoxia training, and of these, 71% reported having initial altitude chamber training. Pilots reported that their training was informative (97%) and that they would benefit from more hypoxia training (90%). Pilots endorsed (agreed or strongly agreed) that all pilots should receive: introductory hypoxia training (92%), recurrent hypoxia training (86%), initial altitude chamber training (85%), and recurrent altitude chamber training (70%). However, when asked specifically if general aviation pilots flying unpressurized aircraft should receive initial altitude chamber training, only 31% perceived this as being necessary. Initial altitude chamber training received lower endorsements for private (32%) or recreational (10%) pilots than for commercial (74%) and air transport (90%) pilots. When asked if altitude chamber training should be based on the altitude capability of an aircraft, 59% responded affirmatively. It appears that the need for altitude chamber training was based on the likelihood of flying at higher altitudes and not simply the level of certification. When asked if the current regulations (i.e., not requiring altitude chamber training) addressing high-altitude flying (above 25,000 feet/msl) are sufficient, 52% of the current sample disagreed or strongly disagreed. Conclusions: Generally, these professional pilots perceived that pilot training should include introductory hypoxia training, recurrent hypoxia training, and altitude chamber training. Noted exceptions were initial altitude chamber training for general aviation pilots flying unpressurized aircraft, recreational pilots, and private pilots. However, a caveat should be noted regarding the generalizability of these results. This sample is a small segment of the entire pilot population; therefore, these findings may not generalize to pilots overall. Distributing the survey to a wider audience of pilots would provide additional information regarding perceptions of hypoxia training.

Key Words: Hypoxia, High-Altitude Physiology Training, Altitude Chamber Training, Hypoxia Training, Recurrent Hypoxia Training

This information came from an
FAA online article.

*** Any law, statute, regulation or other precedent is subject to change at any time ***

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