Simulated parachute descent in the cold: thermal responses and manual performance.Aviat Space Environ Med. 2002 Nov; 73(11):1100-5.AS
Ejection from a fighter aircraft can expose the pilot to extreme cold and windy conditions. Knowledge of the effects of such conditions on thermal responses and performance of the pilot is scarce.
It is expected that the temperature of bare skin and fingers may decrease to the level where health and/or performance are hampered.
Seven fighter pilots performed a simulated parachute descent (SPD) at ambient temperature (Ta) of -35 degrees C and wind velocity of 10 m x s(-1). The 8-min SPD was followed by a 60-min cold exposure (CE) at Ta of -20 degrees C. Flight garments with or without immersion suit were used. During SPD the subjects performed basic survival tasks. Rectal and skin temperatures were measured and manual performance was tested.
Thermal responses did not significantly differ between the clothing ensembles. Mean skin temperature was 28 degrees C and 27 degrees C at the end of SPD and CE, respectively. The cheek temperature was 9 degrees C (range 3.2-13.8 degrees C) at the end of SPD. Finger skin temperature was 7 degrees C and 9 degrees C at the end of SPD and CE, respectively. The subjects could perform the defined tasks during SPD while manual performance was slightly impaired during CE.
Subjects could tolerate the 8-min SPD and the following CE in the studied conditions without a loss of vital performance in basic survival actions. However, the risk of frostbite on the uncovered skin area as well as numbness of the fingers may jeopardize pilots' health and performance during parachuting.