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:
- Flying at altitudes above 3000 m / 10000 ft in gliders requires general medical considerations, e.g. hypoxia.
- Wave Flying at altitudes above 6000 m / 20 000 ft requires special high altitude preparations.
- High altitude scientific literature studies, basic instruction and hypobaric chamber training were performed.
- Technical planning, O2 requirement calculation and emergency training had to be done.
- If both oxygen systems (EDS & Bendix) are used properly as required, O2 supply is provided in a safe manner.
- At lower altitudes EDS provided sufficient O2 support, but battery function had to be watched closely.
- O2 -systems must work reliably; they need professional maintenance.
- Most used O2 -systems are not state of the art. Also EDS systems have to be technically improved.
- Technical support and manpower for servicing O2 -equipment in the gliders must be provided at local airfield.
- 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.
- Hypothermia, Hypoxia, Hyperventilation and DCS are the physiological threats.
- 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.
- Flight safety and altitude physiology rules were known due to prior intensive basic training.
- All flight safety related concepts were key elements for the success of MWP 99.