High Altitude Suit Technology – Protection

music
ambience: Cockpit Radio

Losing consciousness is just one of the many possible hazards of flying at extremely high altitudes. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We’re listening to sounds recorded on board a high-altitude flight.

“High altitude as far as the aircraft and equipment I work with is concerned is anything at or above 63,000 feet of altitude because that is the point where the human body cannot survive without some form of full-body protection.”

Jim Sokolik is head of the High Altitude Life Support team based out of Dryden Research Center. The key to surviving in these extreme conditions, he says, is a pressure suit.

“Ambient air pressure is not suitable to sustain human life. There’s not enough pressure squeezing on the body to actually keep the oxygen inside the blood stream. If the human body was subjected to the lack of pressure at those altitudes, basically the oxygen would be pulled from the bloodstream faster than it could be put back in and the pilot very quickly would pass out due to being deprived of oxygen.”

A pressure suit acts as a back up to the cockpit pressure system. If that fails, the suit inflates in less than a second to protect the pilot.

“These suits are customized to each pilot and a pilot’s required to keep his weight to within ten pounds on a year-round basis. The reason for this is when the suit inflates it has to inflate in a position with the arms bent where the hands are on the yolk and the knees are bent so the pilot could actually work with the suit to fly the aircraft instead of fighting against it.”

We’ll hear more about high-altitude life support systems in future programs. Please visit our web site and check out our new blog. That’s at pulseplanet, one word, pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

High Altitude Suit Technology - Protection

At extremely high altitudes, pilots wear pressure suits to survive.
Air Date:09/19/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Cockpit Radio

Losing consciousness is just one of the many possible hazards of flying at extremely high altitudes. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We're listening to sounds recorded on board a high-altitude flight.

"High altitude as far as the aircraft and equipment I work with is concerned is anything at or above 63,000 feet of altitude because that is the point where the human body cannot survive without some form of full-body protection."

Jim Sokolik is head of the High Altitude Life Support team based out of Dryden Research Center. The key to surviving in these extreme conditions, he says, is a pressure suit.

"Ambient air pressure is not suitable to sustain human life. There's not enough pressure squeezing on the body to actually keep the oxygen inside the blood stream. If the human body was subjected to the lack of pressure at those altitudes, basically the oxygen would be pulled from the bloodstream faster than it could be put back in and the pilot very quickly would pass out due to being deprived of oxygen."

A pressure suit acts as a back up to the cockpit pressure system. If that fails, the suit inflates in less than a second to protect the pilot.

"These suits are customized to each pilot and a pilot's required to keep his weight to within ten pounds on a year-round basis. The reason for this is when the suit inflates it has to inflate in a position with the arms bent where the hands are on the yolk and the knees are bent so the pilot could actually work with the suit to fly the aircraft instead of fighting against it."

We'll hear more about high-altitude life support systems in future programs. Please visit our web site and check out our new blog. That's at pulseplanet, one word, pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I'm Jim Metzner.

music