One of the subjects that is frequently emphasized in the materials that are published by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aeromedical Education Division is hypoxia, which is more commonly referred to as “oxygen starvation.” The FAA points out that hypoxia is insidious in its onset. It sneaks up on you, and you lose the ability to sense that something is going wrong. Altitude-chamber tests have shown that as oxygen deprivation increases, some victims experience a sense of increasing well-being, even euphoria, while they’re losing the ability to function in a thoughtful, coordinated manner. The FAA points out that even though it’s not required by regulation, it’s prudent to use supplemental oxygen at night when flying above 6,000 feet MSL because vision is particularly sensitive to diminished oxygen.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) report, on January 23, 2003, at 8:37 p.m., mountain standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200 was destroyed when it crashed and burned in a night forced landing attempt near La Sal, Utah. The private pilot, who wasn’t instrument-rated, and her three passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight, which began in Longmont, Colo., and was expected to finish in Las Vegas.