By James D. Lakin PhD MD FACP
CFI, CFII, MEI, Airline Transport Pilot, FAA Sen. Med. Examiner 

Aeromedical Forum

Aviation Safety Courses Through the FAA


December 1, 2019

Aviation training doesn’t come cheap. So, when the FAA offers it for free, you might want to take a hard look. Of course, there’s a catch. Training is done in Oklahoma City, the headquarters of the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) which does take a few gallons of avgas to reach. However, this time of year, odds are it’s a good deal warmer and sunnier than here at home.

Now that I’ve almost talked you into it, what training is available? The two big programs are CAMI’s Physiological Training Course and Basic Survival Skills for General Aviation Pilots.

The one-day Physiological Training Course deals with such possibly fatal inflight events as hypoxia, spatial disorientation, decompression sickness, acceleration forces leading to gray-out or unconsciousness, noise, vibration and thermal stress. A big emphasis is put upon flying above 10,000 feet especially in a pressurized cabin where rapid loss of cabin pressure constitutes a sudden major in-flight emergency. The day is divided between ground school class and practical demonstrations of these problems in the CAMI hypobaric (altitude) chamber.

I’ve taken a ride in that chamber and it is really an eye opener to personally experience rapid decompression from a comfy 8,000 foot cabin pressure to 18,000 foot. You also get a chance to gauge the effects of high altitude hypoxia on your task performance and visual acuity. This is really important in that folks respond differently to hypoxia and if you haven’t experienced it you may not recognize it until it’s too late. It makes you a champion of supplemental oxygen!

Also, included in the course, is a practical demonstration of spatial disorientation in their General Aviation Spatial Disorientation Demonstrator.

The second course and one that is worth while for any hearty winter flyer, is Basic Survival Skills for General Aviation Pilots. In this course they discuss basic knowledge and skills to cope with common survival scenarios.

Keeping alive in hot and cold environments is covered as is signaling and fire starting procedures. Not bad things to know in Minnesota in the winter! They talk about how to put together a personal survival kit to drop in the baggage compartment of the plane.

As if that weren’t enough there are also some fun practical exercises. You get to plunge into a ditching tank and practice cockpit evacuation in the drink. A thermal chamber gives you a taste of surviving in the desert.

Another favorite is the emergency smoke evacuation aircraft simulator. This is an old 737 fuselage that is set up to be engulfed in “smoke” in a couple of seconds. The game of skill and chance is to find the emergency exit before you are toast. A challenging but very useful experience.

If you would like to sign up for the CAMI course call (405) 954-4837. There are altitude chambers and training courses offered to civil aviation pilots at several Air Force and Army bases. They charge a $50 fee.

You can get a list of locations and application instructions at:

There are a few restrictions before you can enter the altitude chamber, however. It is a no-go if you:

Do not hold a valid class I, II or III medical certificate

• Have a cold or other infection

• Have a beard (oxygen mask doesn’t seal properly)

• Have been SCUBA diving within 24 hours

• Donated blood within 72 hours

• Consumed alcohol within the last 24 hours

• Are less than 18 years old.

So, if you’re good to go, sign up and learn some cool stuff!

Fly wisely. See you next month.

As always, comments, questions and suggestions are welcome:

Also, we’ve moved our office to Airlake Airport’s FBO (KLVN)! Call 952-469-4414 for a flight physical appointment.


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