Recently, Bruce Landsberg (the President, AOPA Air Safety Foundation) wrote about the pilot of a Cessna 400 who became temporarily incapacitated due to hypoxia (or the lack of oxygen) some weeks ago while flying. Luckily, his daughter (who is not a pilot) was able to talk to ATC and work out a descent plan into a more oxygenated atmosphere where her father eventually recovered and was able to safely land the aircraft without further incident.
Both the pilot and his daughter are extremely lucky and there is no better way to fully appreciate the dangers of hypoxia than to take a look at the video from an August post of ours entitled A ride in a “hypoxia” chamber or to listen to an audio exchange between ATC and a Learjet whose pilot was suffering from the affects of severe hypoxia. Watching the video and listening to the audio exchange clearly shows that pilots must ask whether they and their equipment are ready for the challenges that come with flying in less oxygenated environments.
Bruce concludes by saying that high altitude training is essential even if you are not flying a pressurized aircraft above the mandatory FL250 while pilots who consistently fly above 14,000 feet should receive solid training – good advice worth heading.