Amazing Vision and Mission Statements

Perfection may not be possible but “Striving for Excellence” is a worthy and continual goal. Learning is a lifestyle, not an event!

SAFE Vision Statement:

Promoting Excellence in Aviation Education

SAFE Mission Statement: 

The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) works to create a safer aviation environment by

  • Supporting aviation educators with mentoring opportunities, educational resources, and other benefits 
  • Inspiring professionalism through promotion and recognition of excellence and enhanced education
  • Representing aviation educators through interaction with the aviation industry and government 
  • Promoting learning in all areas of aviation for everyone at every level

Organizations are defined by their Vision and Mission. Some have a life-limiting reach and die off when meeting their goals. Others redefine their goals as they achieve each new milestone. Then there are some that never have goals but only a vision that is beyond reach. So, I looked at the Vision and Mission of the S.A.F.E. organization and was so heartened.

Let me explain what I mean. The five words define an ongoing endeavor. When does one achieve excellence in aviation education? That is the question. Does that happen when the finite number of members and other stragglers who happen to hit the website learn a thing or two before tuning out from the digital universe. Partially, it does, but not at a sustainable level. Indeed, one should always think this through a bit for achieving excellence in perpetuity. Ask any aviator if he or she has achieved the pinnacle of their abilities and the answer, if they are honest about it, will be no. Why do people like Sean Tucker or Peggy Wagstaff continue towards the journey to redefine themselves with their ever increasing knowledge of the finite bounds of the aerodynamic envelope? Because there is an infinite incrementalism yet to be achieved. It is akin to the Zeno’s Paradox, you never really get there. So, S.A.F.E. as an organization seems to have a vision that forever will shine like a beacon that can never be reached, yet the pursuit will always remain worthwhile. But if someone comes along and professes that that vision has been achieved, then the game of excellence is over and the organization like many others might cease to exist.

I also happen to belong to the MAPA Safety Foundation as one of the director. The motto of that organization is “Safety is No Accident.” That motto was coined by one of the directors, Theodore Corsones. Now if you look at that Vision, you will find a similarity to one at S.A.F.E. . Safety is defined as “NO” accident. But as we all know, that is impossible. As one safety-oriented pilot drops off from the role of flying another one not yet well versed in the nuances of flight takes over. Add that to the “To err is human” adage and the fact that errors are universal and inevitable then you have recipe of never really achieving that vision. But you try and keep trying, finding new mechanisms and tools to educate and fill the starved human mind with ideas of safety. You get closer and closer but never get there. And that is the pursuit of excellence. At S.A.F.E. the vision is aligned in the same vein as well. Educate the mind to veer away from the unsafe acts. Keep educating with the latest of tools and methodologies for they are in flux all the time!

At S.A.F.E. as a fledgling organization that is seeing a blossoming growth in its membership roster, we are fortunate to have a vision that defines the infinite view of safety in flight through education. As long as, we continue to view that vision as something worth hunting down and achieving, the prospect for sustainability as an organization will remain in the mission.


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Transitioning From a Mooney to Arrow

Parvez Dara, ATP, MCFI, SAFE Director

The other day, wanting to get some flying time, I decided to get checked out in a Piper Arrow. Aside from the similarities of the complex aircraft of a fuel injected engine, and retractable gear the two beasts are quite different.
Lets us take them apart one by one and compare the results. This is by no means a put down or build up of either one. It is merely a note on transition thoughts in the left seat effects on the pilot. There is definitely a need for a difference between the mind and the mental state.

ParvezMooney

Engine:

The “big” Mooney engines are Lycoming TIO540 derated down to 270hp (Mooney Bravo a true turbocharged aircraft or TIO-550-G Mooney Acclaim-a turbo normalized version). The latter has twin Turbocharger and Innercooler built in front of the firewall, they also exact a hefty price in weight. The Mooney climbs at a nice clip reaching a comfortable 1200 feet per minute in the right circumstance. The Manifold is set at 36 inches and the RPM near redline around 2550rpm. It guzzles around 26 gallons in the climb. You can feel it getting light on its wheels wanting to break the surely bonds, as it transitions easily and with very little effort into the cruise climb mode. Retracting the gear is easy and the transition to “wheels up” takes 4-5 seconds. Trimmed, it is an easy-peasy state of affairs as the earth is left behind quickly. Decreasing the MP to 34/2400 in a cruise climb, the boost pump light flickers off. Cruise power setting is mostly at 30MP and 2400RPM with about 16 gallons per hour. Average speeds at max cruise setting is around 185-190 knots at 8000feet. The boost pump is linked to the throttle to the wall and easing it back shuts the boost pump allowing the mechanical fuel pump to take over.
The Piper Arrow is obviously slower because it is powered by a Lycoming IO360 at 200hp and not turbocharged. The instructor calls for a 25MP and 2500RPM as a cruising power setting and the engine sips around 10.5-11 gallons. It wants to run its wheels a little bit more on the ground and one has to gently heave it off the tarmac. It too feels light when the needle goes past the 60-65 knots of airspeed. The climb, as expected is a bit anemic and the climb rate factors in between 500-600 feet per minute. But climb, it does and remains steady till about 3000 feet or so, when the climb rate diminishes slightly. The max cruise speed at 8000 feet is around 138-140 knots. The Fuel Boost pump has to be manually switched on and off in both take offs and landing modes as well in changing fuel tanks.

ParvezArrow

Airfoil (Wings):

Mooneys have the laminar Airfoil that love to fly. The Arrow has the trademark Hershey Bar wings, bulbous and not as relative wind friendly. But they are stable and do provide a better buffer against the potential ice formation. As both wings develops lift against the Relative Wing and Newton pushes from below and Bernoulli pulls from above, both airfoils seem fairly happy flying. But kill the engine in the air and the differences become quite stark. The Mooney wing continues to soars along wasting between 350-400 feet/minute of altitude as it transitions at Glide Speed down to the earth. The Arrow however loses 1400-1500 feet per minute at Glide Speed and looks for a landing strip close by. While Mooney gives ample time to think about the Insurance company, the Arrow demands immediate attention for safety.

ParvezLegacyPanelParvezPanel

Panels:

The newer model Arrows are equally equipped with the “Glass Cockpits” like the newer Mooneys. The difference lies in the positions of the knobs. This understanding of knobology is what takes time. Pilots transitioning from one aircraft to another, no matter the age of the aluminum, need to develop a firm handle on where the various knobs are. This education in “knobology” is better served on the ground then in the air. A small but critical example; Mooneys have their Gear handle up on top of the panel space with a single green light indicating gear down state, while the Arrow I flew had the Gear handle under the yoke in the lowest part of the panel space with the “three green light” symbology determining the gear locked in place based on stimuli received from the limit switches within the wheel wells. Interestingly the “three green” are individual bulbs and in case of one not lighting up can easily be tested by substitution. Whereas the Gear System in the Arrow is the electromechanical version relying both on electric and hydraulics to move the pieces up and down, the Mooneys have electrical worm drive that retracts and extends. Both aircraft have limits of extension and retraction air speed limitations. The Arrow has a feature; which can be disabled when air work is being performed, the automatic gear extension when the airspeed declines below 105 knots.

Flaps:

Now here is another stark difference between the two aircraft I flew; the Mooney has a small lever placed in the middle lower quadrant of the panel with an indicator to show the flap status between Approach and Landing flap configuration. Oscillating between Flaps Up and Down is dependent on a flip of a switch. In the Arrow there is a handle-bar on the floor that is purely muscle mechanics and goes from 10 degrees to 40 degrees (barn doors category). Both mechanisms function perfectly. In the Mooney, a popped circuit breaker can render the Flap switch functionless (there is a mechanical feature for gear extension). The Arrow however is resilient. No need for electricity to apply, since brute strength is the modus operandi.

Flight:

I enjoyed the flights in both the aircraft equally. Knowing the difference in characteristics and what to expect makes one adept at understanding what the airfoil, the engine and a plethora of electro-mechanical gizmos can do. It took me a half hour to close my eyes and sit in the cockpit imagining the location of various switches, circuit breakers and other locations of the Garmin 430, Transponder (GTX 327), and the second radio a KX150. The Mooneys I have flown have been with the Garmin 1000 Glass and also those with steam gauges. The locations of the “Six Pack” (non glass) are firmly placed in front of the eyeballs in both aircraft (standard).

The transition between the two aircraft was relatively easy, enjoyable and in both cases brought breathtaking views to behold-as it always without fail, does!

A few words of Advice:
So if you intend to transition to a different aircraft, either old or new, spend a few moments:
It is important as is in all aircraft to follow the Checklist for Preflight, since there are quite a few differences between any two aircraft.
Get comfortable in the cockpit.
Close your eyes and accurately place the various panel placed equipment.
Know the Lift characteristics of the Wings.
Know the engine function
Keep the Standard Checklist nearby and use it for Preflight, Take-Offs, Approach to Landing, Landing, Taxi and Shutdowns…Follow the checklist to the “T.”
Keep the Emergency Checklist nearby for Engine outs, Fires, Gear malfunction etc.
Get comfortable with the flight characteristics of the aircraft with an Instructor before going solo…there is always more than meets the eye.
Transitioning from a faster to a slower aircraft requires equal diligence as one from a slow aircraft to a faster one. The anticipatory times are different in flying the “other” one.

Please Fly With Understanding…Fly SAFE!

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We always need more input on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile fun (How about $58 off your annual ForeFlight subscription…membership pays you back $13!)

Important Decision Making Skills!

Thanks to author Parvez Dara, SAFE Treasurer, Master CFI and ATP-rated pilot.

Consider this logic; “I think therefore I am.” Rene Descartes was the father of those words and yet everything we do seems to come from this simple phrase. Our thoughts become actions and then those become habits and they eventually develop our character.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.34.32 PMSo let us look at it in matters of aviation safety. Two pilots from the same household develop differing characteristics of behavior. One is judicious in thought and action, careful in planning and argues within himself all observable points of view with an eye towards flexibility due to changing environments, thus creating various scenarios and plans of action. The other pilot is laissez faire. He gets up, looks out the window at the sun peaking though the clouds and heads to the airport. He is our “kick the tire and light the fire, barnstormer.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.34.04 PMThe logic of decision making is based primarily on information. Asymmetry of information is the main reason for our first pilot to have deliberation over multiple plans of action. He deals with the Boolean logic of “If this then that.” The barnstormer cares not a wit about information per se. He believes he is the epitome of an aviator and the sky is his oyster. So to each, thought is his own way.

Both these pilots are borne of the discovery and justification process. The discovery of biases and the justification to do things. The careful pilot has turned information into knowledge and understanding, while the barnstormer is, shall we say more about his own fully developed sense of “greatness,” then any sense of reality.

While the former takes in all the available bits of data and compiles them into a cohesive sense of the environment, both past and future, the latter has built within himself the fire-walls of confidence rich in confirmatory bias.

Ah I am glad you asked about confirmatory bias. Basically if you do something repetitively and it works, you consider that as a successful and repeatable enterprise. Not withstanding Taleb’s “Black Swan” effect the barnstormer can go on for a finite period of time with that bias lingering within him, until one day the ailerons fly off the hinges. An example would be a pilot who scud runs. As he continues to press on while the cloud ceiling lowers the boom and confirmatory bias continues to ride the wave, until one day the pilot mangles himself on a cell tower or becomes a statistic of a CFIT (obscured mountain). This happens quite a few times a year unfortunately. Justification of actions are a human mechanism steeped in hubris and confirmed through the passage of time by similar acts of carelessness. Its like the teenager who after watching a video of an expert skateboarding champion decides he can go down the rails on flat concrete surface, only to break some young bones in the process, trying to up the ante down a steep staircase.

On the other hand the careful pilot looks at the weather briefing diligently, has acquired the instrument rating, is always instrument proficient and even then takes into consideration the weaknesses of his own skills with “what if scenarios.”

How do we make decisions?

Carefully with as many pieces of information as are available!

DecisionMaking

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow has explored the idea that we have two internal systems in our brain that are often in conflict during the decision making process. System 1 is a knee-jerk type, quick on the pedal to the metal with little reverence for the condition of the equipment or the environment. System 2 is a more careful, slow, methodical and judiciously employed consideration of all available pieces of information that go in to making a decision.

While System 1 is more of the emergent nature that triggers the frontal lobe of the brain into quick-firing of electrical stimuli, System 2 is the careful process that takes into account from the temporal, visual, auditory and parietal lobes of the brain before committing the fire from the frontal lobe. So in essence with deliberate care.

Which is correct?

If you have to ask that question as a pilot then, I suggest, you take some classes to govern your impulsive, hazardous attitude.

The old story about that, “there are no old, bold pilots!” is a truism. There are only the methodical careful ones that define the risks, mitigate as many known hazards as possible and only then undertake an action.

Conquering space did not happen because someone decided to tie a rocket on their back and lit the fuse. It happened because of hundreds of scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, physicists and a few brave astronauts took on the arduous task of understanding space.

Pilots are not all pioneers in space. Most of us are just pilots. There are a few aviators among us, not mere technicians in flight, who understand completely each motion as they are strapped into the seats of an aircraft flying at many hundreds of miles per hour across space.

Understanding natural science and the design of science that are created to embark through that nature is as important as knowing when to apply the force on the rudder to prevent a slip and when to create a slip in flight.

Decisions are made continuously in life. We decide what to buy or sell, to go to a movie or read a book, to cook a meal or dine out. All these decisions have a precedent of understanding and need to fulfill. Similarly flying has a precedent and need. The need however must be met with an equal tincture of understanding of the surrounding space and its vagaries.

All flights are possibilities and as they proceed in space and time, they become probabilities and then are added to the ledger of understanding based on the information gleaned from those flights after they become certainties. These flights then become the justification for future ones. It is equally easy to fall into the trap of hubris as it is into the comforts of a carefully crafted methodology. Therefore it is important to learn about good habits from others and discern about bad habits. Accident cases abound in the aviation literature, most (80%+) point to the pilot actions as the cause of aircraft accidents. One would even consider the number higher. But then I digress.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.35.39 PM

How do we avoid falling into the Kahneman’s System 1, knee-jerk, barnstorming trap?

  1. Develop good safe habits through practice.
  2. Employ careful and methodical instructors to give skill and sound procedures.
  3. Create a log of all flights outside of those in the logbook, detailing each flight and reflecting on errors for future correction.
  4. Critique every flight and what was learned from each.
  5. Gently point out to other’s bad habits (you might save their lives one day).
  6. Rash car drivers make bad pilots.
  7. Egocentric machoism is dangerous to a pilot’s health.
  8. Keep learning. Get all that aviation certification has to offer. Get an instrument rating if you are a private pilot, a commercial ticket and go all the way to the Airline Transport rating. Then consider sea pilot rating, Soaring, Upset training, etc.. All these fill your bag of tricks when one day, you might need them. Never stop learning!
  9. Always emulate good behavior.
  10. Do not drink and fly (Consider more than 8 hours from bottle to throttle, because you as pilot might be a slow metabolizer of alcohol).
  11. Consider the FAA’s IMSAFE (Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue and Eating) before each flight.
  12. Have fun, fly safe…then you live to fly another day (the important part!)

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile fun ($66 off annually on your ForeFlight subscription anyone?)

Understanding Pilot Fatigue

Be mindful of fatigue; this slow insidious dread that has caused many a pilot to lose their way.

Fatigue, is the final frontier in our modern too-busy lives. No, seriously, from that threshold nothing is achieved, nothing improved and nothing is gained. Only problems ensue.

Definition: “Fatigue is a condition characterized by increased discomfort with lessened capacity for work, reduced efficiency of accomplishment, loss of power or capacity to respond to stimulation, and is usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness.”

It is a burnout, or feeling tired…minor change in mood, energy, or sleep; the lowest reaches of wellness. Fatigue is a symptom of your brain reaching a point of dysfunction…a large spectrum of dysfunction. The spectrum ranges from momentary blips on the radar of simply needing a break, a catnap for instance, or needing to eat lunch, to more severe, devastating, life-altering, neurodegenerative disorders of complete exhaustion…Yikes!

There are two kinds of Fatigue:  Acute (short-term) and Chronic (long-term).  Short term acute fatigue is easily cured by a sound sleep and is a normal daily occurrence. The chronic fatigue however has deeper psychological roots and causes significant psychosomatic ailments, which can lead to long term disability from debilitation. Some of these include: tiredness, heart palpitations, breathlessness, headaches, or irritability. Sometimes chronic fatigue even creates stomach or intestinal problems and generalized aches and pains throughout the body and even depression. Self-help cures in these circumstances are rare.

Above all, when in the throes of chronic stress, don’t fly!

Let’s look at some of the common issues encountered: sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, apathy, feelings of isolation, annoyance, increased reaction time to stimulus, slowing of higher-level mental functioning, decreased vigilance, memory problems, task fixation, and increased errors while performing tasks. Fatigued individuals consistently underreport how tired they are, as measured by physiologic parameters. No degree of experience, motivation, medication, coffee, other stimulants, or will power can overcome fatigue. Nine hours into his 33-hour flight, Charles Lindbergh wrote in his journal that, “…nothing life can attain, is quite so desirable as sleep.”

A special kind of fatigue that can afflict a pilot with profound ramifications is “Skill Fatigue.” Skill Fatigue involves two main disruptions:

  • Timing disruption – Performing a task as usual, but with the timing of each component is slightly off, makes the pattern of the operation less smooth and fluid. There is a higher chance of disruption in finishing the task.
  • Disruption of the perceptual field – You concentrate your attention upon movements or objects in the center of your vision and neglect those in the periphery. This leads to loss of accuracy and smoothness in control movements. The effects are magnified in high task saturated environments eg. turbulent weather in instrument conditions.

Other symptoms include: memory fog (where did I leave my keys), difficulty following instructions, lowered retention, lack of motivation, tire easily, poor focus, emotional meltdown and psychosomatic pains and digestive complaints. And while it is felt in the peripheral muscles as weakness it is a central dogma arising in the brain; Brain (Central Governance Model-CGM) generates the sensations of fatigue during exercise (MIND OVER MATTER) – Fatigue is a Brain-Derived Emotion that Regulates the Exercise Behavior to Ensure the Protection of Whole Body Homeostasis. ( Timothy David Noakes,* Front Physiol. 2012; 3: 8)  While initially fatigue causes a reduction in muscular force, the brain executes a second phenomenon of fatigue as a sensation. The central psychical station influencing the peripheral muscular network might appear as an imperfection, yet it is an extraordinary perfection of support and self-preservation.

IMAGE

Imaging brain fatigue from sustained mental workload: An ASL perfusion study of the time-on-task effect. Julian Lim et.al. NeuroImage 49 (2010) 3426–3435

Fatigue as a phenomenon has been extensively studied by the FAA in Commercial Pilots flying over multiple time zones and the Rules require mandatory rests crossing over 4 time zones and 8/9 accumulated flight hours. (Prevalence of fatigue among commercial pilots Craig A. Jackson 1 and Laurie Earl 2 Occup Med (Lond) (June 2006) 56(4): 263-268.)

The current regulations are:

“The new regulations, which don’t apply to cargo pilots, require that pilots get at least 10 hours of rest between shifts. Eight of those hours must involve uninterrupted sleep. In the past, pilots could spend those eight hours getting to and from the hotel, showering and eating. Pilots will be limited to flying eight or nine hours, depending on their start times. They must also have 30 consecutive hours of rest each week, a 25% increase over previous requirements.”

We must remember that the ultimate risk of pilot fatigue is an aircraft accident and potential fatalities, such as the Colgan Air Crash that occurred in early 2009 (http://aviation.about.com/od/Accidents/a/Accident-Profile-Colgan-Air-Continental-Connection-Flight-3407.htm)

What is the ultimate antidote to Fatigue?  Answer: SLEEP.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts for pilots and surely-bonded- land-lubbers to live by:

Do…

  1. Be mindful of the side effects of certain medications, even over-the-counter medications – where drowsiness or impaired alertness is a concern.
  2. Consult a physician to diagnose and treat any medical conditions causing sleep problems.
  3. Create a comfortable sleep environment at home. Adjust heating and cooling as needed. Get a comfortable mattress.
  4. When traveling, select hotels that provide a comfortable environment.
  5. Get into the habit of sleeping eight hours per night. When needed, and if possible, nap during the day, but limit the nap to less than 30 minutes. Longer naps produce sleep inertia, which is counterproductive. 6. Try to turn in at the same time each day. This establishes a routine and helps you fall asleep quicker.
  6. If you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed, get up and try an activity that helps induce sleep (watch non-violent TV, read, listen to relaxing music, etc).
  7. Get plenty of rest and minimize stress before a flight. If problems preclude a good night’s sleep, rethink the flight and postpone it accordingly.

Don’t…

  1. Consume alcohol or caffeine 3-4 hours before going to bed.
  2. Eat a heavy meal just before bedtime.
  3. Take work to bed.
  4. Exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime. While working out promotes a healthy lifestyle, it shouldn’t be done too close to bedtime.
  5. Use sleeping pills (prescription or otherwise).

Fatigue is a slow inebriation of senses and its harm lies menacingly in the wings. Early recognition and prevention is the key to flight safety!

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun.

Water; Essential to Life (*And* Flight!)

by: Parvez Dara; Physician, ATP, MCFI, CFII, AGI, MEI. Gold Seal (and SAFE board treasurer)

Hydration

Why do you need to carry a bottle of water in flight, or on a commercial flight travel and ask for, “May I have more water please!”

Because…

70% of the body weight is water based. 87% of that is inside the cell (intracellular). The “functional water” is required for oxygen enrichment and for maintaining the pH balance.

Water is vital for digestive juices, blood, sweat and tears. Any discrepancy will lead to complications with delivery of these “humors,” including oxygen to the body cells creating relative (stagnation) hypoxia. Thus optimal health needs good hydrated balance. This coolness of Scientific judgment helps dampen the randomness of confusion and chaos within the brain. The brain, we all agree, needs an uninterrupted supply of nourishment.

Not having enough water leads to the following complaints: Nausea, thirst, exhaustion, muscle and joint aches, angina (chest) pain, migraine (headache), restlessness and most importantly Central Nervous System symptoms like confusion (imagine that communicating with the ATC), paranoia and anxiety (irrational fears).

Did you get that? DID YOU GET THAT? Oops, sorry for yelling.

Dehydration can occur as a result of high altitude, excessive exercise, sweating and fluid deprivation. This hidden prism of self deception is the main element of weakening the pilot’s learned arts; decision making skill and the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of control.

The balance to maintain optimal body water level is coordinated by the kidneys mostly by concentrating urine. If the water is restricted or lost through vomiting, sweating or diarrhea, the osmotic pressure increases in the blood vessels, which draws the water from the cells into the blood vessels. The dehydrated cells become less functional. Similarly at altitude where the air pressure is low as is the water vapor content, the compensatory hyperventilation (increased rate of breathing) is a norm thus there is excess water loss through breathing – the exchange of dry air (incoming) for moist breath (outgoing). The shriveled cells slow down their activity in the muscle (fatigue), heart (heart rhythm), brain (decisions), kidney (filtration) etc. The most damaging effect is in the brain! Adding alcohol at any quantity in that circumstance accentuates this effect, as does smoking (imagine that during Spring-break, but then, very little brain function is acquired or required during that volatile period). A pilot can ill afford such psychological trauma, especially with the need for advanced decision making needed in the cockpit. Beware of this enchantress that woos the confused mind and sends it hurtling down to the ground prematurely.

Did I mention that oil flows slower than water? Similarly a thicker blood (dehydrated/concentrated) flows slowly. This congested flow limits transport of life’s nourishing goods into cells and transfer of life saving oxygen within.

Good hydration encourages the following: Increased energy, Reverse cellular damage, Normalization of the pH, Balance blood sugar, Fortify immune system, Better sleep, Clearer mind and Better memory.

So drink plenty of water before, during and after flight and enough water daily to keep your urine light yellow and less concentrated for optimal health.

And here is the additional kicker: Drinking 2-3 glasses of water reduces sugar, salt, cholesterol intake as well.

Read here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160301174759.htm

As Spock (Star Trek) would say, “Live Long and Prosper!”

Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.

HYPOXIA IN FLIGHT

Master CFI Parvez Dara, MD FACP, ATP, MCFI

As humans we depend on energy. Our energy is created in little biological machinery present in every cell, called mitochondria. These tiny powerhouses generate phosphates from converting (Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP) to Adenosine Diphosphate or ADP). Phosphate groups are needed to move cells within organs to do their jobs, e.g. muscles to contract (locomotion) hearts to pump (heart beat), kidneys to filter (filter blood), livers to digest and brains to process information. Absent phosphate and we are looking at an abyss. Oxygen, the quintessence of all elements breathes life into living creatures. Without it there is no water, nor breathable air, nor the lusty energy that makes us want to fly.

The breathable air contains 20.946% Oxygen. Humans exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen to replenish the stores of renewable energy for every one of the trillion cells that make us. This energy is in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP releases a phosphate group that acts as an energy bar for the cell to chew on so that it can accomplish its functions. These functions include manufacturing proteins, hormones, keeping the integrity of the cell wall etc. From our aviation point of view the function that cannot be clouded is the brain activity. The brain weighs about 3 pounds and consumes 25% of the oxygen supply. The brain’s hefty consumption is a testimony to its integrated and creative functions. 100% of the brain is at work 100% of the time and it needs its constant and uninterrupted energy supply.

Effects of Hypoxia on Brain using fMRI.
Effects of Hypoxia on Brain using fMRI.

The rarified air, for this purpose over 5000 feet at night (due to effect on the eyes) and over 8000 feet during the day, at altitude has reduced content of oxygen, which causes our brains, first to compensate by increasing blood pressure, then the respiration and heart rate to maintain the steady oxygen supply. When oxygen levels lower further, portions of the brain function capitulate, akin to losing the alternator, one reduces energy load by keeping only the most important instruments on the panel active so as not to drain the battery. So flying in un-pressurized aircraft without oxygen, your cognitive skills diminish. The additional harm at the rarified air is the loss of moisture in the air, which makes us breathe our moisture and not breathe any in, thus leading to dehydration. Your communication and math skills suffer as do interpretative skills. Missing calls, airway intersections or flying into adverse conditions becomes possible. To unscramble the brain a little oxygen rich air is mandatory. A “Chamber Ride” at an aviation facility confirms this.Remember an intensely low oxygen level for a short time or a low-level prolonged oxygen restriction can have similar short term and long term consequences on cellular behavior. If you fly above 5000 feet at night or above 8000 feet during the day use oxygen. It is good for the cerebral soul. Think about these problems reading this while seated in your armchair, on the ground rather than trying to decipher this information in the air:

1.      Mathematics Skill deterioration

2.      Cognitive Skill deterioration

3.      Instant Recall diminished (Frequency recall)

4.      Remote Recall diminished (experiential references)

5.      Decision Making Skills deteriorate (Time, distance and fuel consumption)

6.      Risk Assessment Impaired (eg. Go, No go decision into weather)

7.      Physical functional Impairment (muscle weakness)

8.      Lethargy/Fatigue.

The most common reaction to hypoxia is a feeling of euphoria. This is especially dangerous because an affected pilot will not usually feel “sick” or disabled but more typically feel “high” (feeling real good). Given this reaction, there is no incentive to discontinue a flight or exercise an alternate course of action. Pilots suffering from hypoxia feel like aviation gods! Only a trained vigilance from the presence of cues like altitude and duration can arm a pilot to be on guard for the onset of hypoxia; insidious and stealthy. Training in a altitude chamber or oxygen deprivation class is helpful to bring this point home clearly.

The common physiological sign of hypoxia is cyanosis or blue color in the extremities, most noticably in your fingernail beds. Before the easy (and very reasonably priced) oximiters were available pilots checked their nails for blue color.  I highly recommend an oximeter for anyone flying regularly at altitudes above 10,000 feet for any length of time. I also suggest that at altitude, one should take deep breaths to use the entire lung capacity to oxygenate the blood, since we have a tendency to shallow breathe in a cockpit. Having supplemental oxygen readily available is also an excellent safety precaution. Safe flying always requires current training, vigilance and an attitude of caution in the presence of known threats (in this case high altitude).

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