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III. High Altitude Physiology Training and Preparation for

       MWP 99


A team of flight surgeons discussed and proposed the following detailed plan to prepare for this expedition in the Argentinean Andes. In fact, not all of the preparation could be completed in time before the expedition started.

  1.     Flight medical exams prior to travel with emphasis on heart, lung and hematological functions. - Focusing on health problems that could be exacerbated at high altitudes. Those were addressed in advance to provide a margin of safety for the participants.
  2.     Review of the basic literature to understand altitude physiology concerning gas, pressure, and diffusion laws. - This is mandatory to understand high altitude dangers including the planned hypobaric chamber training.
  3.     Calculate oxygen requirements for the planned flight duration at different altitudes to be flown. - As a rule at altitude O2 consumption is 1 ltr oxygen at 200 bar / ATA, per hour, per person.
  4.     Prepare life support equipment for each glider to meet oxygen needs, including possible emergency situations. - This had to be done a long time in advance in order to design systems and organize the equipment. One unsolved problem exists for altitudes above 20 000 ft / 6000 m, as a "rule of thumb" there is not enough space in the glider to store sufficient oxygen for this altitude.
  5.     Lectures in Altitude Physiology: (+ Pressure changes in the body + oxygen deficiency at altitude + type of oxygen deficiencies + time reserve (TUC) + decompression sickness (DCS) + thermophysiology and others) and a practical hypobaric chamber ride, version No.1. - This is the first chance to experience hypoxic symptoms at 25 000 ft / 7500 m during a routine chamber run. The pilots had to get used to the chamber routine, to gain basic experience and learn O2 -discipline, like PRICE-Check (Pressure, Regulator, Indicator, Connections, Emergency Equipment) etc.
  6.     Hypobaric chamber ride, version No. 2. Introduction and training-practice of the O2 -equipment used in the glider, redundant additional systems and review in-flight emergency procedures. It was important to learn, plan and discuss different emergency options during flight, like O2 -system failure.
  7.     Documentation of all flights. Logger, paper, standardized questionnaire.
  8.     Pre- and post-flight briefings conducted by a flight surgeon. This exchange of experience helps to establish safe flying criteria.
  9.     Plan Search and Rescue Emergency Procedures (SAR), find local support, like a hyperbaric chamber, qualified hospitals, rescue systems, emergency phone numbers.
  10.     Technical equipment needed for Oxygen refills and additional technical supplies and support available at local airport.