FAA Releases Audio
Of Pilot Suffering Hypoxia At 17,000 Feet
By Mike Mitchell
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.
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.
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.
a minute or so the wife called onto the mic and stated she
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.
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
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.
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