FAA Releases Audio Of Pilot Suffering Hypoxia At 17,000 Feet


  Bookmark and Share

FAA Releases Audio Of Pilot Suffering Hypoxia At 17,000 Feet

By Mike Mitchell


May 31, 2011 - The FAA has released an audio recording of the pilot who suffered hypoxia at 17,000 feet. On May 17th a 70 year old pilot and his wife departed San Bernardino, California for a landing in Colorado Springs, Colorado (COS) in a Cirrus SR22 aircraft (N160A). Enroute the pilot was handed off to Denver Center on frequency 118.57.  

The controller informed the pilot that there would be a revision to his route and when he was ready to copy to advise the controller. Moments later the pilot informed the controller he was ready to copy the revision.  

The controller instructed the pilot he was cleared to Colorado Springs Airport via after Fsher to Deberry Two Arrival and to maintain 17,000 feet. The pilot gave the read back and appeared to be coherent.

Minutes later the controller Charlie Rohrer, who has 22 years experience as an air traffic controller, gave a radio check on the aircraft as he thought he heard someone calling him. He called out to several aircraft asking if they had radio Denver Center. Serveral pilots stated negative then the controller called out to N160A and asked if he had a request.

The 70 year old pilot responded, his reply was unclear and appeared he was in distress. The controller indicated to the pilot he thought he was suffering from hypoxia and asked if he wanted to descend his aircraft to a lower altitude. The pilot responded with several coughs and replied 160A. The controller asked again and the pilot responded 160A. 

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. It occurs in healthy people when they climb to high altitudes, where it causes altitude sickness and can lead to potentially fatal complications. In the case of altitude sickness, where hypoxia develops gradually, the symptoms include slurred speech, fatigue, shortness of breath, a feeling of euphoria and it can lead unconsciousness and then death.

The controller instructed the pilot to descend to 13,000 feet, he then said he could get him down to 12,000 ft (the reluctance for a lower altitude was due to the mountainous terrain). The pilot?s wife then came onto the mic and informed the controller she was going to try to help. A Great Lakes Airlines pilot in the area informed the controller that he has enough fuel onboard his aircraft to assist.


Within a minute or so the wife called onto the mic and stated she was trying to get the auto pilot on, the controller called out on the radio and asked if anyone was familiar with the Cirrus SR22 aircraft. A pilot keys the mike and begins to give the wife instructions on descending the aircraft. The wife responds she is having difficulty talking and holding the oxygen mask to her face.  

As the aircraft descends down to lower altitude, the 70 year old pilot begins to regain consciousness and begins to assist his wife with flying the aircraft. The controller speaks with the pilot and request from the pilot to explain his intentions. The controller suggest to he can land at Farmington Airport, New Mexico which is closer than Colorado Springs Airport.  

The pilot states to the control ?I think I?m better off going to Colorado Springs, I?m not ready to land?. The controller than states to the pilot that if he does so he would have to climb back up to 17,000 feet in which he would again experience hypoxia. The pilot again states no I?m better off going to Colorado Springs. The controller tells him he still does not sound coherent. The controller then suggests to the pilot a heading to Farmington Airport. The pilot agrees.

As the Cirrus SR22 aircraft continues to descend the Great Lakes Airlines aircraft follows behind remaining clear of the aircraft. The pilots condition improves and the 70 year old pilot and his wife are able to land safely.

Other News Stories (For the latest news please checkout our home page)


Home Aviation News Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Upcoming Events Links To Other Sites General Aviation Helicopters Medical Factors Facing Pilots
Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Sea Planes Editorials
 ?AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share


AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator