Friday, 20 January 2012


Today's airliners and the equipment that they use boast some of the most advanced technology governments will allow civilians to use. Trained engineers on the ground in Derby (UK) can check second by second changes in the state of any Rolls Royce engine in the world, flight operations in Chicago can keep track of any United Airlines flight to the watt of electricity - planes can even land themselves nowadays! It's amazing how far we have come in commercial aviation over the past few years but there is still one factor that needs much more work - the human factor.

We're currently studying about the human body and it's reactions to working within a commercial, pressurized aircraft. I'm not wanting to scare anyone reading this blog but when I say that a rapid decompression in the aircraft at cruising altitude can lead to unconsciousness within eight seconds it becomes very apparent that it's a subject that needs covering! A lack of oxygen within the air causes a symptom called 'hypoxia.' This lack of oxygen into the bloodstream can cause a sense of euphoria, lack of awareness as well as many other symptoms with all having the same conclusion - unconsciousness.

Currently in place in nearly all cockpits are far more advanced oxygen systems than you see fall from the bins above the passengers in the rear of the aircraft. Quick donning masks which can be securely fixed to each flight crew member's face within five seconds sit within arms reach of every pilot sat in their seat. As soon as the mask is affixed it supplies 100% oxygen to both members for a minimum of 2 hours. Trust me, by that time the plane is going to be on the ground! As the aircraft makes it's emergency decent passengers will regain consciousness by 10,000ft. It is a subject that must obviously be covered as it is a worst case scenario event.

As you can see, the authorities in conjunction with aircraft manufacturers and airlines have come together to create a plan and procedure to deal with such an event. The technology is now in place and an understanding of the condition by experts but a clear lack of education for pilots within the profession.

On Saturday I'll enter a specially designed chamber with fellow students to simulate a reduction in pressure and therefore oxygen levels within the blood to help us experience and then learn about the early signs of oncoming hypoxia within a cabin. It's an invaluable experience I am thoroughly looking forward to and I'm hoping it will be the only time I experience such a thing! I'll hopefully have a video of the experience by the end of the weekend.

This week has gone well. Now we're into the second week the weekly tests have again reared their heads and all four I took went down very well - hopefully it will continue in the coming weeks!

Saturday morning I'll be taking the hypoxia training as mentioned above and on Sunday I'll hopefully be back into the air with my instructor continuing to knock off the hours before the end of the ATPL examinations on the very last day of February.

It's also good to hear some preliminary dates for the start of our other courses after the exams including the Commercial Pilot's License (CPL), Instrument Rating (IR) and Multi Crew Course (MCC) in both Florida and Ireland hopefully meaning the completion of the training here with PTC by the end of June this year.

Two more classes tomorrow - update at the weekend with the hypoxia training!

Below is a video from a flight a couple of weeks ago.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to the results of your Hypoxia chamber. I've yet to do this, but would love to. Reactions vary with each individual. Keep up the great posts!