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Student pilots learn basics of aerospace physiology

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- While most people think of parasailing as a vacation sport, it is just another part of training for specialized undergraduate pilot training students here.

Experts from the 14th Medical Operations Squadron spend eight and a half days with students during their first phase of training. The instructors conduct classes that teach the students about how the flying environment affects the body, how to take care of and tell if something is wrong with their life support equipment, parachuting and egress procedures, ground training and survival techniques for the local area.

"Our job is to make sure they come home safe each and every day," said 1st Lt. Lauren Maher of the 14th MDOS.

One of the favorite parts of aerospace physiology training for the students is parasailing.

"Parasailing was a good chance for me to experience coming in for a landing," said 2nd Lt. Boyd Bandy, a student pilot.

The students also spend time in an altitude chamber to learn how hypoxia, a lack of oxygen, affects their bodies. Students who experience hypoxia may have a change in vision, nausea, headache, hot and cold flashes, confused thought processes, dizziness and fatigue. One of the worst side effects of hypoxia is a euphoric feeling that clouds a person's judgment.

"This training gives them the ability to recognize the symptoms of hypoxia if they were ever to occur while (the students) are flying in the jet," Maher said. "The point of the altitude chamber is to allow students to experience two symptoms and then have them correct them, because their next symptom could be incapacitating."

Besides the demonstration in altitude chamber, Tech. Sgt. Steve Bachant, 14th MDOS, said he and his coworkers teach students how to recognize and treat many other potential problems they may experience in flight.

"We try not to put too much pressure on the students here, because they will get that once they hit the flightline," Bachant said. "However, what we teach the students here is very important because we teach them the basics that will last them through the rest of their training and their career."

The students will not receive physiology training again for five years, so it is very important that the 14th MDOS team does a good job teaching them during the eight days they are in physiology, Maher said.

"(The 14th MDOS) has prepared me well in case of an emergency," Bandy said. "I know what to do, so I stay physically and mentally fit." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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