The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul


Fisking the BBC with....Salon's "Ask the Pilot"

I like the BBC. Really, I do. Journalists who are technological idiots and morons with "Dr" in front of their name, however, I can't stand.

Case in point, this article from Auntie Beeb, stating that people are getting oxygen deprived by flying. Yup, your oxygen levels drop below what they would be at sea level when you are streaking 'cross the sky at 35000 feet.

Now, I doubt I can explain precisely why Dr Susan Humphreys and her Belfast team are in need of some medical refresher training as well as Patrick Smith does in his Salon column Ask the Pilot, but for those of you who can't access the article (either because your software blocker won't allow you to do that, or you just can't stand to sit through yet another "I suck as a parent and instead of doing something constructive about it I'm going to whine here about it" article that they seem to specialize in lately), let me go over some of the basic points and maybe add one or two of my own.

First off, remember that the air is not pressurized to sea level conditions. It is pressurized to approximately the same air concentration that you would find at 8000 feet. Is it possible to pressurize the air to the same concentration that you would find at sea level? Yup.....but then you would really strain the metal and potentially cause a hazardous situation.

When you ascend in altitude, even by going from, say, Callao (Lima, Peru's seaport city) to La Paz, Bolivia (altitude 12000, approximately), there is going to be a little less oxygen. Most people can handle that change if they take it easy. That means, no marathons upon arrival. Sit and rest a bit, don't walk too far, and most people acclimate within a day or two.

Now, I don't know about you, but it's been a damn long time since I would have been able to run up and down the aisles of a 727. Maybe when I was a toddler I could have done it, but not now. There's just too many people trying to stuff too many bags into the overhead compartments...for the most part, I just, well, sit and rest a bit, and don't walk too far, like the rest of the passengers.

And, oh yeah, did I mention I have asthma? So did my Dad. His was even worse than mine. How many times did we require medical attention while flying? Zero. Zip. Nada. Ok, there was one time my dad could have possibly used some medical help. But that was when he & the Jet Set Brother got food poisoning and were tag-teaming the lavatory. Oxygen concentration levels had nothing to do with that. Inferior airline catering in Hong Kong definitely did.

The article makes a big deal out of the fact that hospitals administer oxygen to people who have blood oxygen concentrations that are below 94%, and some people experience blood oxygen concentrations of 93% while flying. Let's keep one thing in mind here, kiddies....those people getting oxygen administered to them in a hospital setting generally are in bad shape, anyway. These are the kind of people who probably couldn't get medical clearance to fly unless it was some kind of life threatening emergency. I'm talking heart patients, people with emphysema, that kind of thing. People who can't get the normal amount of oxygen when on the ground are going to have a hell of a time while airborne or at high altitude. I wish the good Dr and her team would have used a bit of common sense before making a statement like that.

I can't wait to see what that crack Belfast medical team would have to say about scuba diving......I mean, dear sweet Jesus, you are at double the air pressure when you dive down 33 feet. I've gone down to 139 feet. That's about five times the pressure at sea level.

I'm a reckless daredevil, I really am, messing with air concentrations like that......


  • At 4:52 PM, Blogger DragonStormInAZ said…

    With the fun of Deep Vein Thrombosis, poor air circulation and filtration, and being stuck in a tube where invariably there is at least one complete idiot (who usually seems to sit next to me), they are worried about a few percent less oxygen for people just sitting there?
    I suppose their next health research topic is those taking trips to Death Valley and the difficulty breathing because there is too much oxygen? The heat would have nothing to do with it of course other than a contributing factor... :)

  • At 10:28 AM, Blogger Deacon Blues said…

    Oxigen deprivation is the least of my worries when I fly.

  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger Kory O said…

    Yeah, my worries usually involve 1) the booze cart and 2) getting the broccoli platter as my "special meal".


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