Aerospace Physiology, operational needs bring change
By Nicholas Pilch, 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 30, 2021
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The Air Force is moving the Aerospace Physiology career field from the Medical Group to the Operations Group, officially Oct 1, 2021.
“In order to make our training more robust, the Air Force recognized that aerospace physiologists and aerospace physiology technicians need to be more involved and exposed in actual flying,” said Maj. Joseph Teodoro, 60th Operations Group aerospace physiologist. “If we get to see and experience what our aircrew goes through during actual flying missions, we can become more effective in addressing their concerns and requirements. The best way we can do this is by realigning ourselves directly under operations and become non-rated aircrew ourselves.”
The Aerospace Physiology section is comprised of Airmen who train aircrew personnel on how to recognize signs and treat symptoms of physiological events or changes to the body that occur while flying. They train specifically on hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen, spatial disorientation, G-forces, day and night visual challenges, situational awareness, fatigue and sleep hygiene, nutrition and stress, aviation safety, crew resource management.
“Physiological events in military aviation have been going on for many years and are due to a number of reasons,” said Teodoro. “These include aging aircraft, issues with life support equipment and limited resources. Training, of course, has always been one of the solutions.”
Teodoro trains aircrew here at Travis AFB in his one-man section on hypoxia signs and symptoms and other human performance challenges in flight.
“Hypoxia is a condition when there is not enough oxygen in the blood, tissues and cells,” he said. “When this occurs, it will affect our normal physiological function, thereby decreasing our cognitive and physical performance.”
Teodoro is a self-described aviation fanatic. Throughout his career, he became just as interested in aerospace human factors and aviation safety, which he uses today.
“In aviation, there are four ways we can get hypoxic,” Teodoro explained. “It could be from the inability of the blood to carry oxygen, the inability of the tissues and cells to utilize oxygen, or it could also be due to insufficient blood flow. But the most common type is caused by inadequate oxygen or loss of pressurization at altitude, typically above 10,000 feet for prolonged periods.”
Teodoro trains aircrew from all throughout the region. The signs and symptoms of hypoxia vary from person to person, which is why this training is so important for aircrew to go through.
“Our ability to fly an aircraft, go over a checklist, navigate, conduct aerial refueling or drop bombs on target are compromised when we are not getting enough oxygen in our bodies,” he said.
If you are interested in learning more about aerospace physiology, click here.