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Summary

Mountain Wave Project 99 in Argentina was a scientific, Hi-Tec first time high altitude wave glider-flying excursion. Next to overall mission planning and management tasks was the human factors part, with its life- and human performance related aeromedical concerns, an extraordinarily demanding business. These experiences are summarized as follows:

  1.     Flying at altitudes above 3000 m / 10000 ft in gliders requires general medical considerations, e.g. hypoxia.
  2.     Wave Flying at altitudes above 6000 m / 20 000 ft requires special high altitude preparations.
  3.     High altitude scientific literature studies, basic instruction and hypobaric chamber training were performed.
  4.     Technical planning, O2 requirement calculation and emergency training had to be done.
  5.     If both oxygen systems (EDS & Bendix) are used properly as required, O2 supply is provided in a safe manner.
  6.     At lower altitudes EDS provided sufficient O2 support, but battery function had to be watched closely.
  7.     O2 -systems must work reliably; they need professional maintenance.
  8.     Most used O2 -systems are not state of the art. Also EDS systems have to be technically improved.
  9.     Technical support and manpower for servicing O2 -equipment in the gliders must be provided at local airfield.
  10.     Available oxygen stores are not sufficient for long duration flights of more than 3 hours and performed at altitudes above 20 000 ft / 6000 m. – All compromises in flight are disabling and dangerous for flight safety.
  11.     Hypothermia, Hypoxia, Hyperventilation and DCS are the physiological threats.
  12.     Timely sufficient O2 - pre-breathing during ascent prevented all but one flight up to 27 000 ft / 8000 m from DCS symptoms, probably for the reason that the duration of stay at this altitude would only be a few minutes.
  13.     Flight safety and altitude physiology rules were known due to prior intensive basic training.
  14.     All flight safety related concepts were key elements for the success of MWP 99.