Mr. Stirewalt wrote:
"For just putzing around to find out ones service ceiling we can all get
by without oxygen. Everest has been climbed, after all, without oxygen."
This is not correct. If one is flying at 14k+ it is not a choice whether or
not to be on oxygen. People have died both on Everest and other mountains
significantly lower due to hypoxemia. Additionally, any blanket statement that
says "we can all get by without..." is just inaccurate.
No doubt there are plenty of readers in this forum for which flying above even
10K is a phenomenally bad idea without oxygen. Many KR builders are older
gentlemen who have been north of their 20's for some time and are more
susceptible to hypoxia simply due to age and less than optimum health, myself
Are there those out there who have done it? Sure. I knew pilots in the Navy
who got away with all kinds of things. Getting away with it once does not make
it smart or something to be repeated even once.
Pilots out there in the KR realm, safety is a mindset. If you are looking for
a justification to take the less-safe route for convenience eventually your
odds of ending up the greasy spot at the bottom of a smoking hole is several
orders of magnitude higher than the one who errors on the side of caution.
"Chuck" Sewell, the original Grumman test pilot for the EA-6B Prowler once
said, "fortune favors the bold." Bold, yes, stupid, no. Chuck is the only
pilot to ever get an EA-6B out of a fully developed spin because his mindset
was safety-oriented, not flat hat minded.
If a pilot's ego is such that they just have to try flying high without oxygen
because someone else did it, at least take O2 with you in the plane when you do
it. The second you feel euphoric, sleepy, light-headed, angry, combative,
happy, feel like choking or like throwing up, or any other abnormal condition,
get on O2 immediately. You may not get a second chance.
Why am I so adamant about this? Personal flight experience (my entire crew
going hypoxic climbing through 12k), loss of friends to hypoxia, and being a
trained (and unfortunately, experienced) aviation mishap investigator.
Not trying to pick fights, but bad advice does not get better with age or
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