By introducing state-of-the-art capabilities including automation control, active monitoring systems and the use of multiple gas mixtures, DSTA modernised the ageing hypobaric chamber at the RSAF Aeromedical Centre. The modernised chamber allows the RSAF to better conduct hypoxia training as part of the Aviation Physiological Training Course and facilitate clinical screening for pilot applicants.
Under the safe environment of the hypobaric chamber, aircrew can experience rapid decompression and become aware of the symptoms as well as their bodily responses to hypoxia. The aircrew’s prompt recognition of hypoxia and ability to carry out appropriate aircraft recovery actions during such situations is critical to flying operations.
The new chamber also allows a wider range of training scenarios including night flying, and higher training fidelity such as mask-on hypoxia.
The introduction of various gas mixtures and night flying conditions into the system proved to be a significant step forward for the RSAF as it enabled new training scenarios with increased training realism. The chamber can create a mask-on hypoxia training scenario where trainees are exposed to reduced oxygen concentration levels at hypoxic altitudes. This provides contingency training under hypoxia conditions especially for aircrew who fly routinely with an oxygen mask. The chamber can also replicate night-flying conditions where trainees would experience degraded vision due to hypoxia.
To design the system to be easy to operate, maintain, train and manage with ‘Design for Support’ principles in mind, DSTA actively engaged the operators to understand their requirements and designed a streamlined and easy-to-operate console. Touch-screen consoles with intuitive human-machine interface were also added to allow operators to train and operate easily on the system that was built.