Doc Blue's Emergency Medical Kit »

Do you carry a first aid kit in your airplane or car? According to AVweb's Brent Blue M.D., first aid kits of the drugstore variety are mostly packed with stuff that is totally useless and occasionally harmful. Over the years, Dr. Blue has assembled his own traveling medical kit for dealing with on-the-road emergencies, based on his long experience as an emergency room doc, frequent traveler, pilot, outdoorsman, and dad. He offers details of exactly what's in his kit, why each item is there, and how to assemble a really good kit of your own. More

Nonin Onyx Pulse Oximeter »

A pulse oximeter is a medical instrument that hospitals use to measure the level of oxygen in your bloodstream without actually having to draw blood and send it to the lab. In essence, you just clip a probe onto your finger, and within seconds you get a digital readout that tells you whether you're hypoxic, and if so, how seriously. Until recently, these instruments were too bulky and costly to consider for in-cockpit use. But, a new, inexpensive, micro-miniature model from Nonin Medical has changed all that. AVweb's Mike Busch and Dr. Brent Blue put the Nonin Onyx to the test, and it passed with flying colors. If you fly at 10,000 feet or above (and sometimes even if you don't), you really ought to use one of these. More

Respiration: What Pilots Need To Know (But Aren't Taught) »

Did you know that your involuntary breathing pattern goes into unstable oscillation at altitudes as low as 10,000 feet? Or that changing the rhythm of your breathing can have dramatic effects in reducing the adverse effects of hypoxia? Or that at least 40% of the supplemental oxygen you breathe is completely wasted? Neither did AVweb's Mike Busch, until he recently started flying with a pulse oximeter and seeing strange things. This prompted him to delve into the physiology of respiration, where he uncovered a bunch of critically important things about breathing aloft that your CFI never taught you. More

Overcoming P-Factor »

No, we're not talking about that left-turning tendency on takeoff, but rather the other kind of P-factor that so often preoccupies light plane passengers. In fact, with the possible exception of turbulence, a lack of bathroom facilities is perhaps the chief concern that non-pilots have about flying in small aircraft -- and sometimes it's a problem for pilots, too. AVweb's Mike Busch evaluates a number of products designed to address such range-limiting concerns. More

The Screaming Eagle and the Doc »

When AVweb's Dr. Brent Blue was offered the chance to fly back seat in an F-15E fighter recently, naturally he jumped at it. His adventure started with ejection seat egress training, a flight physical, and life-support preparations involving a G-suit, survival vest, parachute harness, helmet, oxygen mask, and respiratory protection gear. After being briefed by fighter jocks named "Pickle" and "Monster," our favorite middle-aged medic was buckled in to the wizzo's seat of an F-15E Screaming Eagle. The flight started out with an unrestricted afterburner climb to 10,000 feet in 15 seconds (do the math!), but unfortunately was cut short by a mechanical problem that resulted in dumping of 10,000 pounds of the taxpayer's finest jet fuel and an earlier-than-scheduled landing. Nevertheless, Brent wound up with a never-to-be-forgotten aviation experience and slew of great photos you won't want to miss. More

When Humans Fly High: What Pilots Should Know About High-Altitude Physiology, Hypoxia, and Rapid Decompression »

In the wake of the still-unexplained crew-incapacitation crash of a Lear 35 carrying golfer Payne Stewart and five others, AVweb decided to ask an expert how such a thing could happen. That expert was 10,000-hour bizjet pilot Linda Pendleton of King Schools, formerly Citation instructor and program manager for FlightSafety International, and type-rated in 30-series Lears as well as all manner of Citations. Linda's reply turned out to be the most definitive treatise on the subject of high-altitude physiology and decompression we've ever seen. Even if you think you know this stuff cold (and we sure did), you're guaranteed to learn a thing or three from Linda's remarkable article. More

Recommended Use of Pulse Oximetry in Aviation »

The FAA requirement regarding use of supplemental oxygen -- FAR 91.211 -- is based on studies done long ago, before the development of today's non-invasive technology for measuring actual blood oxygen saturation, known as pulse oximetry. Since the FAA has not yet provided any official recommendations for the use of pulse oximetry in flight, AVweb's aviation medicine editor Brent Blue M.D. offers guidelines for using these marvelous "hypoxia meters" by pilots and passengers. More

Blood Pressure Basics For Pilots »

High blood pressure is a silent killer that -- if left untreated -- can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. Modern medicine offers highly effective treatments for hypertension, but many pilots are reluctant to deal with the problem for fear of creating difficulties when they apply for their FAA medical. Such fears are largely unfounded, because in recent years the FAA has adopted a far more enlightened attitude toward hypertension. Michael Sebastian, M.D., offers everything you need to know about blood pressure but were afraid to ask: how BP is regulated by the body, what causes it to become elevated, why that's so dangerous to your health, what treatments and medications are available, and which ones have the FAA's blessing. Fascinating reading, whether you suffer from hypertension or not. More

The FAA Throws AMEs A Curve »

EDITORIAL: The Spring 1999 issue of the "Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin" came as a shock to the nation's Aviation Medical Examiners. It announced a new plan whereby AMEs would be required to transmit FAA Form 8500-8 medical applications to Oklahoma City via the Internet, starting October 1, 1999. That was expected. What was completely unexpected -- and unwelcome -- was a requirement that this data be entered online, transmitted to OKC, and validated by a new FAA computer system before the AME may issue a new medical certificate to the airman applicant. AVweb's Brent Blue explains why this new scheme will probably mean delays and higher exam fees for pilots. More

How Does Oxygen Work? »

The clearest explanation we're ever read concerning the use of supplemental oxygen in high-altitude flight. The author, who is an anesthesiologist and internist as well as a private pilot, explains clearly how the osygen we breathe gets to where it's going, what it does when it gets there, and what happens when we don't get enough. Also why conserving cannulas are so effective at stretching our O2 supply, and why they aren't recommended above FL180. More