An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device prepares aircrews for high altitudes

  • Published
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Scott Air Force Base recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the installation of a Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device which is used to train aircrew members on the effects of hypoxia caused by oxygen deprivation.

Having the ROBD installed at Scott will save the installation $300,000 over the next six years since aircrews will no longer need to travel to the nearest available altitude chamber, which is over 300 miles away. In addition, training in the ROBD takes only 20 minutes compared to two hours in the altitude chamber.

The device allows aviators and aircrew to experience hypoxia without the threat of decompression sickness or the need for pre-oxygenation, unlike the altitude chamber used by the Air Force since the mid-50s. And, instead of filling out a questionnaire while getting hypoxic, students fly a simulated flight profile.

“What has transpired over the past year to execute this training program is a true Total Force Initiative and serves as a testament to the dedication of Team Scott to ensure our Mobility Air Forces aviators receive the right training at the right place at the right time and cost,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Massa, 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander.

Because the symptoms differ with every individual, officials state that it’s essential for aircrews to safely experience how to recognize the onset of hypoxia, which could occur during high altitude flying.

The ROBD will be used by Airmen assigned to 375th Air Mobility Wing, 932nd Airlift Wing, and 126th Air Refueling Wing who routinely fly at altitudes requiring supplemental oxygen.

At 25,000 feet, the human body can survive without oxygen for only five minutes. At 30,000 feet, the time drops to less than two minutes. Above 35,000 feet, aircrew have only seconds before they succumb to hypoxia.

The first hypobaric lab was established at Hazlehurst field in New York in 1917. Maj. Ed Schneider first instructed Army Air Corps pilots on the hazards of flight using a low-pressure altitude chamber. Since then, there have been significant advancements in the Aerospace and Operational Physiology career field. The ROBD is one of those advances.