Yesterday the all the interns here at Continental took a “field trip” to the NASA Johnson Space Center. There we all underwent Hypoxia training. Hypoxia is a problem that occurs when flying at high altitude when the brain does not receive enough oxygen.
The first part of the morning was spent in a classroom learning about the atmosphere as well as some aero medical information on how lack of oxygen affects the body. After lunch the fun began! We got back and were fitted with a helmet and an oxygen mask. We learned how to wear them properly and how to operate them.
We then got to go in what is called ‘the chamber’. The chamber is a sealed room where the oxygen is taken out simulating the atmosphere at high altitudes. We were sat down and instructors supervised us as the pressure was decreased simulating the atmosphere at 25,000 feet.
Then we were allowed to take off our oxygen masks and perform some simple math problems as well as write our name a few times. After about 5 minutes all of us started to get a bit loopy. We were then told to put our masks back on and the chamber was ‘lowered’ back down to sea level pressure.
The purpose of this was for us to see how oxygen depravation affects us in our own individual ways. For me it was a warm sensation followed by a very happy feeling as well as worsening hand writing and those simple math problems became very difficult. I was having a ball with my mask off!
The best part was it was all videoed so we could watch in our debrief how we reacted to the lack of oxygen. We all then got our high altitude endorsements in our pilot log book which allows us to operate aircraft at high altitudes.
Everything we were taught yesterday I remembered from the flight physiology classes taught at Embry-Riddle. I remember sitting in classes at Riddle, saying, “When am I ever going to need to know this?”
And every day at Continental that question gets answered.