July 2013 -
"I don't go that high," came the reply to my question asking why a pilot had never had hypoxia training. After asking how high the pilot typically flew, he said he never would go over 10,000 to 12,000 feet. Then I asked him if there was a possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning aboard his aircraft.
"What does that have to do with anything?" came the pilot's reply.
I've been working at the Arizona State University's Altitude Chamber for the past 10 years, given training to hundreds of personnel, as well as receiving training myself. Once upon a time, I too did not understand the dangers associated with hypoxia.
I woke up around 4 a.m. to complete flight planning and skipped breakfast as a result of running behind schedule. I arrived at the airport, completed preflight, and was en route to Winslow, Ariz. (KINW) from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (KIWA).
My cruising altitude to Winslow was a cozy 9,500 MSL. The ground below me was patchy snow dotting the mountainous landscape and I detected a hint of a headache and wished I hadn't skipped breakfast.