|Powered Parachute Flying Handbook|
Chapter 1 - Introduction to the Powered Parachute
Fatigue is frequently associated with pilot error. Many pilots do not want to readily admit that fatigue could be a detrimental factor to their flight skills. Some of the effects of fatigue include degradation of attention, degradation of concentration, impaired coordination, and decreased ability to communicate. These factors can seriously influence a pilot’s ability to make effective decisions.
Whether you experience physical fatigue from a lack of sleep or physical work, or mental fatigue from stress, you should consider staying grounded.
Hyperventilation occurs when you are experiencing emotional stress, fright, or pain, and your breathing rate and depth increase although the carbon dioxide (CO2) is already at a reduced level in the blood. The result is an excessive loss of carbon dioxide from your body, which can lead to unconsciousness due to the respiratory system’s overriding mechanism to regain breathing control.
The typical symptoms need to be recognized and should not be confused with hypoxia, which shares some indicators. Lightheadedness, feelings of suffocation, and drowsiness can be some of the first signs. Hyperventilation may produce a pale, clammy appearance and muscle spasms compared to the cyanosis and limp muscles associated with hypoxia. As hyperventilation progresses, you may then feel tingling in the extremities, then muscle cramps; cramps that can be become severe and painful. If you don’t correct your breathing, your brain will override your consciousness, and cause you to faint, while the brain regains control of your breathing.
Hyperventilation can occur when a pilot feels an excessive amount of stress, fear or anxiety. An unexpected or extreme encounter with a thermal or turbulence may unconsciously increase your breathing rate. These situations and the associated feelings tend to increase the rate and size of breath, which then results in clearing too much CO2 from the body.
The solution is to relax and slow down your breathing. This can be accomplished by talking or singing out loud, or breathing into a paper bag which keeps fresh oxygenated air from further reducing the CO2 in your system. Symptoms will rapidly subside after the rate and depth of breathing are brought under control.
Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen. There are many forms of hypoxia that are beyond the scope and need for discussion in a PPC manual, but the results from oxygen deficiency are the impairment of the functions of the brain and other organs. Symptoms include headache, drowsiness, dizziness, euphoria, and blue fingernails and lips.
The most likely cause for a PPC pilot to experience symptoms of hypoxia would be flying too high. Unless you are a private pilot with a powered parachute rating, you need to stay below 10,000 feet where you will have less chance of experiencing hypoxia in a PPC. However, if you are acclimated to sea level conditions and climb above 8,000 feet, you may feel the effects of hypoxia. The longer you stay at altitude, the greater the effects of hypoxia will be. In addition, recent consumption of alcohol, smoking, and some medications will render a pilot more susceptible to disorientation and hypoxia. If you question your condition and consider hypoxia to be a potential problem, you should fly at lower altitudes and/or use supplemental oxygen.
Motion sickness, or airsickness, is caused by the brain receiving conflicting messages about the orientation of the body. The inner ear—specifically the vestibular system—is reporting one spatial orientation, and the eyes are communicating a different scenario. This not only causes confusion in your thinking, it may possibly create vertigo or spatial disorientation. It often causes vomiting and a debilitating feeling. Vomiting is due to a nerve that is connected from the brain to the stomach. When confusion or disagreement occurs between the eyes and the orientating vestibular system, vomiting may erupt.
When symptoms of motion sickness begin, get back on the ground. In the meantime, avoid unnecessary head movements and keep your eyes on the horizon.
As the pilot, you should note if the passenger, who had been talking throughout the flight, gets quiet. You should ask “how are you doing” because getting quiet is sometimes a precursor to feelings of nausea. Inform passengers while still on the ground to let you know if their stomach begins to feel “uneasy.”
Motion sickness can be the result of continued flight stimulation, such as rapid or unexpected turns and swinging through the PPC pendulum. As the pilot, you will find a reduced rate of upset stomachs if you let the passenger know, ahead of time, the flight maneuver you are about to make and avoid abrupt maneuvers.
For new students, anxiety and stress may greatly contribute to motion sickness. However, after a few lessons and some time in the air from the front seat, these feelings/symptoms will usually dissipate.
Medication like Dramamine can be used to prevent motion sickness/nausea in passengers, but since it can cause drowsiness, it is not recommended for the pilot.
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