High Altitude Suit Technology – Suit

music
ambience: Cockpit radio

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, there is a height above which humans cannot go without getting into trouble. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. If you fly above 62,000 feet, there’s not enough pressure to keep the oxygen in your blood stream. And yet high-altitude pilots cross this line on a regular basis. How do they do it? Jim Sokolik is head of the High Altitude Life Support team based out of Dryden Research Center. His job is to maintain and prepare the suits that make these flights possible.

“A high altitude pressure suit looks just like a space suit to the casual observer. There are distinct differences to allow for the difference in needs. The suits that have been reconfigured for aircraft use don’t have all the internal monitors, all the internal heating that’s required for the space program. Ours are very generic. Their sole purpose is to provide oxygen and supplemental pressure in environments where there’s not enough to sustain human life. Just about all aircraft these days have pressurized cockpits. So the suits that the pilots wear are just mainly the last line of defense. They sit dormant until a pressure change occurs that causes them to inflate. There’s a controller on the front of the suit, which is constantly monitoring the outside environment and it’s monitoring the environment inside the suit. The suits will immediately notice the change and will go from fully flat to fully inflated status, depending on the altitude, in less than a quarter of a second. At that point the suit goes fully automatic and will retain as much pressure as required until the pilot can descend to a safe altitude.”

We’ll hear about the preparation that goes into high altitude flights in future programs. Please visit our website at 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 - Suit

A properly fitting pressure suit is a vital part of a high-altitude pilot's flight gear.
Air Date:09/20/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Cockpit radio

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, there is a height above which humans cannot go without getting into trouble. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. If you fly above 62,000 feet, there's not enough pressure to keep the oxygen in your blood stream. And yet high-altitude pilots cross this line on a regular basis. How do they do it? Jim Sokolik is head of the High Altitude Life Support team based out of Dryden Research Center. His job is to maintain and prepare the suits that make these flights possible.

"A high altitude pressure suit looks just like a space suit to the casual observer. There are distinct differences to allow for the difference in needs. The suits that have been reconfigured for aircraft use don't have all the internal monitors, all the internal heating that's required for the space program. Ours are very generic. Their sole purpose is to provide oxygen and supplemental pressure in environments where there's not enough to sustain human life. Just about all aircraft these days have pressurized cockpits. So the suits that the pilots wear are just mainly the last line of defense. They sit dormant until a pressure change occurs that causes them to inflate. There's a controller on the front of the suit, which is constantly monitoring the outside environment and it's monitoring the environment inside the suit. The suits will immediately notice the change and will go from fully flat to fully inflated status, depending on the altitude, in less than a quarter of a second. At that point the suit goes fully automatic and will retain as much pressure as required until the pilot can descend to a safe altitude."

We'll hear about the preparation that goes into high altitude flights in future programs. Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation with additional support from NASA. I'm Jim Metzner.

music