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Old 02-12-2013, 04:28 PM
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tkatc tkatc is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: NJ
Posts: 1,747
Red face High altitude flight

I did something stupid today and I'm man enough to admit it. (Or stupid enough, take your pick). There are clearly not enough posts in this section.

I was planning a flight from Florida to New Jersey today. The weather south of my airport was VFR. The weather at my destination was severe clear as well. Only problem was a system covering about 300 miles of ground that I didn't feel comfortable bobbing and weaving from underneath. I thought I would have to cancel but realized there was a chance I could go over the top. (Controversial to some of course). With the threat of worse weather over the next several days my getthereitis started to kick in. I figured I could take a local hop and see if I could get on top.

Usual departure, climbed out and found blue skies through some large broken areas. I was on top by 5000' or so. I climbed to 8500 to take advantage of some stronger tailwinds. So far so good. It was quite beautiful and smooth up there. I came upon some towering clouds and decided I could hop over. Up to 10,500 I went. Looking good. But the clouds kept rising...and me with them. I was lured on by some broken opaque holes where I could see the ground if I needed to escape. Next thing I know I'm flirting with 16,000 to rise above a small area. I was able to dip back down into thicker air but only to have to climb over some towers again. I had only gone this high before to top some remnants of the Rocky Mountains but was able to descend quite quickly after clearing the terrain. I remembered the rules about O2 and hypoxia but couldn't recite them verbatim. They are as follows for anyone needing a refresher:

(a) General. No person may operate a civil aircraft of U.S. registry --

(1) At cabin pressure altitudes above 12,500 feet (MSL) up to and including 14,000 feet (MSL) unless the required minimum flight crew is provided with and uses supplemental oxygen for that part of the flight at those altitudes that is of more than 30 minutes duration;

(2) At cabin pressure altitudes above 14,000 feet (MSL) unless the required minimum flight crew is provided with and uses supplemental oxygen during the entire flight time at those altitudes; and

(3) At cabin pressure altitudes above 15,000 feet (MSL) unless each occupant of the aircraft is provided with supplemental oxygen.

Anyway, I was above 15,000 for a substantial amount of time without oxygen. Bad move on my part and I could think of no better place to confess my sins. This mistake was fortunate for me as I returned home to NJ safely but I figure this post would be a good reminder for others to prepare properly so you won't sin in a similar fashion. Please feel free to discuss...
My ATC opinion is NOT an official FAA recognized opinion, so any advice you get from me is ONLY my opinion.

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