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Altitude chamber training * Peterson AFB Colorado Springs, CO


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Hello all,

 

Yesterday some of us from Rotors flew to Colorado Springs for the Altitude training course at Peterson AFB. The course is organized by the FAA and is always full, you have to sign up months in advance thru Donald Demuth out of Oklahoma City's FAA office (donald.demuth@faa.gov), the cost is $50.

 

The Air Force was very organized and truly seemed glad to have us there. There are 16 slots in each course, yesterday the group consisted of 2 ladies, 14 men and the average age was around 35 to 40. All of us were civilians, and all but one students or CFI's. One Gent was a contractor (radar tech) on a high altitude ac. Class starts at 7am and lets out around 3:30. Most of the day was spent in the class room going over aviation physiology, physics of the atmosphere, respiration, DCS, hypoxia, the equipment in the chamber, vision and spatial disorientation. My favorite part was the vision section, they blacked out the room and put us thru some skills in the dark.. it was very enlightening. Then during the chamber run they took us off O2 in the dark at 10,000 feet to see the diff with and w/o O2... it was very cool.

 

The chamber ride was too short, what we all went for (about an hour total). First they took us to 8K to check our masks and sinuses. Then back to ground level for 30 minutes on pure O2 (what we were told, i would estimate that we were on 70 or 80% tho as i have breathed a lot of pure O2 and it didn't see the same to me). The 30 minutes on O2 was to off gas the N2 already stored in our body to help prevent DCS on ascent to 25K. The 30 minutes went by pretty quickly, there was a video but i was sleepy from having to get up at 3am for the trip down and tried to sleep. After that we ascended to 8K at 3K feet per minute (rapid decompression), then to 18K at the same ascent rate. We completed a few regulator skills at this level and then continued to 25K for the mask off part of the trip (what we all were looking forward to). One side of the chamber at a time removed our masks, waiting for one of the signs of Hypoxia to manifest (we were told to put our mask back on after one, most of us waited for two to show). Some of the possible signs are: dizziness, blurry vision, tingling, confusion, twitching muscles... The first one i saw in the people across from me was confusion, which presented within 2 or 3 minutes in a couple of them, then some reported tingling in their hands. It seems that the average time off the mask was 4 to 5 minutes (have to say here tho that they really rushed us in this area and didn't let us get to serious symptoms, maybe due to a late start of the class). There was also a sheet of paper on a clip board that had some math problems and such but no one completed much of that, i think here because they just weren't interested in it, not that they couldn't do it. The symptoms we saw most were tingling, blurry vision, and confusion, all pretty serious deficits in an ac at any altutude. The ride to the surface stopped at 10K for the black out part of the ride, this was very interesting for me, to see the difference in sight with and w/o O2. They gave us a color chart and took us off the O2, pretty quickly the colors went away on the chart, and then when they reintroduced the O2 the colors returned within a second or two... there was also a very short time that the colors completely blacked out when the O2 returned but some didn't notice that.. for me it was pronounced but short (less than a second). On the final decent there were two people that complained of ear pressure, but it went away pretty quickly (i expect this too was due to the rush to get us down and out). It was cool to see the fog that appeared on ascent, and it did get a little cold. Mostly tho it was very comfortable in the chamber and a fun ride. I have worked as a tender in hyperbaric chambers in Hawaii and have been in three different chambers, this was the largest and most comfortable, lots of room and even air conditioning, there were also three tenders inside with us for safety.

 

Now, would i recommend this for everyone? Can't say, i would have liked to see more pronounced symptoms manifest, but it was clear to all of us how serious it could be and how quickly the problems could come on.. so for that i would say yes. The best part i think was seeing how, even at 10K in the dark, how much your eyesight changes at altitude. My motivation for going was that i lost a good friend in the past dude to the onset of hypoxia, he was in a King Air on descent from ~20K after a skydiving load in Hawaii, even tho he wasn't at altitude for very long, he passed out on final.

 

I am glad that i went, and for $50, you can't beat the price.

 

aloha,

 

dp

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Those are fun classes, I've been through one when I was doing jet training but I didn't know that Peterson even put on a class, (I grew up in C. Spgs.) Anyway, it is crazy how much oxygen effects you. We did pretty much the same things you did only our class was 2 weeks long, so it kind of sucks you guys didn't get to do more. That chamber looks almost identicle to ours, only we had a seperate room for rapid decompressions, where we would do 8k to 25k in about 10 seconds, and 8k to 15k in about 2 - 3 seconds. We were also allowed to go pretty far into hypoxia, some in our group even passed out. It was quite interesting seeing people trying to do Math problems, and we also had one of those baby toy's where you have the different shaped blocks, and they have to go in the different holes, people would eventually get to a point where they would just spin the cube with the holes in it around and never put anything into it. But all in all, a real eye opener to the dangers of Hypoxia, and I would recommend it to anyone that can get into a class.

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I've done the course at Fairchild AFB in Spokane Wa, it was a great time and a real eye opener for the night vision exercises. Something I learned was that the chamber portion is mandated by the FAA, thats once of the reasons why you don't go past 25k and the ride you took was the same as mine for the stages. However, the Airforce, at least in our example, was happy to tailor the other portions of the class to a group of helo pilots who didn't really care about how oxegen is stored. (although that might only work if your all helo in the class and not a mix).

 

All in all it was a great experiance, we've sent 3 groups of students so far, very worth it, and its cool to know your own hypoxia symptoms... I couldn't add 2+2 at the end before we masked up.

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RKYMTN,

 

What were you doing as a job when you were an Inside Tender for hyberbaric treatments? I am a Navy Diver and have lots of chamber time and also know several divers that are now helicopter pilots...thought you might be Deep Sea?

 

 

 

I owned and operated Hawaii's first High tech scuba shop, taught mixed gas diving and rebreathers. Nitrox and trimix. I took the chamber tender course (twice) to learn more about dive physiology.

 

dp

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I did the altitude chamber at Peterson AFB a couple of years ago and agree with everything previously mentioned - excellent experience and very enlightening! RkyMtnHI, what do you think of Rotors of the Rockies? I visited with them about a year ago and hope to do my RW training with them at some point in the future. Any word on them getting their Part 141 certification (I want to use my GI Bill). Have you been happy with the instruction? What is your flying background? Are you going to try to instruct and fly as a "post-retirement" job or are you just doing it for fun? Thanks!

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