Caroline Brozovich’s fingers and lips have turned blue-grey, her movements are sluggish, and her eyes half-shut, as though she’s peering through a fog. The oxygen around her is now as thin as the air at 30,000 feet, the cruising altitude for jet aircraft. If Brozovich were piloting an airliner, she and her passengers would be minutes away from unconsciousness – and death.
But Brozovich is a flight student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and her instructor has just handed her an oxygen mask.
They are inside the university’s new High Altitude Laboratory, a high-tech facility for teaching aspiring pilots how to recognize the symptoms of oxygen loss at high altitudes. According to university officials, Embry-Riddle is the first university in the United States to acquire the lab for high-altitude hypoxia awareness training. The lab can accommodate 8-10 people per training session and will include a flight training device at a later date.