Flight Phisiology


Flight physiology basically refers to the manner in which the human body and mind functions during a flight. Essentially, flight physiology comprises of the considerations of the body functioning in flight environment which may entail factors that sustain normal functioning of the body in abnormal environments as well as the considerations that a flight crew and pilots can take into account to enhance regular body functioning prior to and after a flight. Consequently, flight physiology has an integrated focus on human factors and the constituents of safe flight which have a direct impact on human activity during a flight. Knowledge of flight physiology is essential in enhancing safety through the maintenance of normal body functioning besides creating high suspicion index in the event of poor performance of the body resulting from changing external factors. Essentially, knowledge of flight physiology pre-empts both mental and physical incapacitation at the time of changing environmental factors (Reinhart, 2006).

Change in environment that has the highest physiological significance present in flight include varying changes by virtue of barometric pressure, variation by virtue of external temperature as well as three dimensional movements at cross-cutting, and high velocity. The advance in aviation engineering a decade ago has led to the development of aircrafts characterized with relatively high versatility. Ideally, human beings are creatures meant to live on the Earth’s surface. Consequently, with the change in location through an aircraft flight a lot of surrounding facets that appertain to the demands of human life support also change. For instance, there arises a problem of low visibility which is also associated with a number of effects with respect to disorientation. Furthermore, flights are also associated with a general mental and physical distress related. Consequently, these factors must be effectively considered in the aviation physiological analysis. Indeed, for human being to operate the aircrafts, there must be technical reinforcements in the form of physical aids which may involve artificial oxygen supply as well as pressurized cabins used in the height of above 10,000 feet above the ground. With these mechanisms, humans can overcome the handicaps posed by the nature to humans as terrestrial organisms (Reinhart, 2006).

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Space Physiology by Jay C. Buckey

Essentially, there are a number of factors that affect the body during a flight while the aircraft rises above the ground. While body temperature remains the same, the surrounding temperatures are subject to changes. Buckey (2006) argues that barometric pressure changes with changing heights. For instance, he indicates that at the sea level, the barometric pressure is recorded at about 760 mmHg. Similarly, the same barometric pressure is 523 mmHg at about 3.048 meters above sea level, and the trend remains. Ideally, barometric pressure changes with changing height at an inverse proportion. However, with the decrease in barometric pressure, partial pressure also decreases proportionately.

Indeed, Buckey states that partial pressure stands at about 20% of the entire barometric pressure. The level of alveolar partial pressure at the sea level is measured at about 104 mmHg while climbing to the height of about 6000 meters above sea level. However, for a non-acclimated person, the alveolar partial pressure decreases to the level of about 40 mmHg. This is because alveolar ventilations increase consistently with the acclimation of human beings involved. As a matter of fact, people exposed to pressurized cabins during aviation are also adversely affected.

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Basic Flight Physiology by Richard Reinhart

As a matter of fact, flight also poses significant challenges to the humans with respect to oxygen supply. As Reinhart (2006) asserts, high flight reduces oxygen supply resulting from a condition of low oxygen quantity called Hypoxia. Hypoxia condition commonly occurs in the blood stream due to the lack of oxygen needed for various functions of the body such as respiration. During a flight, hypoxia may occur due to the lack or inadequate amount of oxygen. As a result, the level of body working capacity is grossly reduced thus decreasing the movement of the body with respect to all muscles making the major components of the human physical structure, commonly cardiac and skeletal muscles. Essentially, decrease in body working capacity is particularly related to the decline in oxygen supply in the body due to low transportation capacity of oxygen.

According to Reinhart, some acute symptoms of hypoxia are manifested through laxity, euphoria, mental fatigues as well as dizziness among other physical traits. In non-acclimated individuals, hypoxia symptoms often appear at the height of about 3650 meters above the sea level. However, the symptoms aggravate consistently with increasing heights during a flight and may lead to a condition of convulsions and cramps at the height of about 5,500 meters above sea level but ending at the height of about 7000 meters above sea level with a condition of coma.

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Aerospace Physiology, Civil Aerospace Medical Institute

As Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (2004) asserts, hypoxia causes vasoconstriction to the right segment of the heart. Indeed, arteriole spasms also comprise of major components of blood flowing through the pulmonary vessels which further produce short circuit with the flow of blood. This condition leads to the reduced amount of oxygen in the blood. Artificial supply of oxygen may be used to resuscitate the victim of the latter condition. Both pulmonary edema and mountaineering disease comprise of the most common infections for the flight partakers at high altitudes. Indeed, the fatal conditions begin with mild conditions followed by strong symptomatic conditions running for about 2-3 days.

In particular, there are basically two major types of pulmonary edema, namely acute pulmonary edema and the acute cerebral edema. Acute cerebral edema arises from vasodilatation which involves the expansion of the blood vessels leading to the decrease of blood pressure at the detriment of supply of blood across all parts of the body and is caused by hypoxia. On the other hand, acute pulmonary edema is subject to vasoconstriction, particularly the pulmonary arterioles also as a result of hypoxia, particularly during a flight. Consequently, safety measure must be adopted to restrain low oxygen supply and other subjective effects.

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