PARIS – Spanish companies have unveiled a new system for simulating low-oxygen conditions that air force pilots may experience during flight.

The technology, made by Indra, one of Spain’s leading high-technology companies, and iAltitude, a Spanish company specializing in high-altitude sports training, is the latest proposal to cope with the symptoms of hypoxia, which can cause pilots to fall unconscious mid-flight.

Air force pilots have a backup oxygen mask in case the oxygen levels drops too low but if the mask were to fail, pilots “must be able to identify the symptoms that precede hypoxia, a dangerous state that can cause loss of consciousness in a few seconds,” Indra said.

The system, which the company claims is “the first of its kind in the world,” consists of normobaric hypoxia equipment made by iAltitude that Indra has integrated into the simulator for the C101 Spanish Air Force training jet at the Madrid-based CIMA (Aerospace Medicine Training Center).

Whilst the pilots are training on the simulator, the system regulates the oxygen pilots get through their mask, reducing it progressively. Their responses are recorded and the data will be used by CIMA to design training programs tol alert pilots to pre-hypoxia symptoms.

Until now, training in hypoxia was mainly performed in hypobaric and normobaric sealed chambers in which trainees could undertake exercises to help them detect loss of oxygen, but these could not be undertaken simultaneously with flight tasks. The new system means hypoxia tests are now integrated with flight training, as the capabilities of each pilot to complete flight procedures in low-oxygen conditions are being evaluated continuously.