General Aviation Hypoxia and Reporting Statistics

Claire Schindler


Hypoxia is defined as a lack of oxygen throughout the body, which can be caused by several factors at any altitude. General aviation pilots may argue that most general aviation aircraft cannot attain the required altitudes where one might be more affected by hypoxia, but it is exactly that attitude that may makes them more susceptible to hypoxia. This attitude is even more detrimental if one considers, that out of the 590,038 certificated pilots in the US, a little over 30% of them are general aviation pilots.1 The problem is that unlike airline pilots or military pilots, there are no specific requirements for general aviation pilots to receive flight physiology training that could cover hypoxia causes, recognition and recovery. Furthermore, there is no requirement that, if a pilot does experience hypoxia, to report it to a safety and statistics agency such as NASA. Without these reporting statistics of hypoxia, there is no way to observe trends through the years of reported hypoxia that could help prevent other general aviation pilots from experiencing the same hazard. To attain this information, an anonymous survey was distributed through an electronic newsletter via the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Curt Lewis & Associates, a safety forum and recommendation service for the aviation industry. Some of the questions of this survey recount the pilot’s experience at the time, flight condition and any previous flight physiology training they may have had. The information attained was analyzed to determine how often hypoxia occurs for general aviation pilots, reporting statistics and how effective flight physiology training is for the general aviation population.


Hypoxia; General Aviation; Reporting Statistics

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