Air safety improvements

A new NASA Kennedy Space Centre innovation – the Personal Cabin Pressure Altitude Monitor – may significantly contribute to public aviation safety.

The monitor, which is about the size of a hand-held pager, is designed to warn individuals of potentially dangerous or deteriorating aircraft cabin pressure altitude conditions through audio, vibratory and visual alarms.

In addition, a lighted digital screen displays a text message of the warning and the specific condition causing the alarm.

The inventor of the device, NASA engineer Jan Zysko, said the monitor operates independently of other aircraft systems and monitors pressure and time conditions when supplemental oxygen is to be used.

‘For pressurised aircraft, the invention provides an independent warning of cabin pressure altitude where a cabin leak or other reason for pressurisation loss might go undetected,’ said Zysko. ‘For non-pressurised aircraft, the monitor tracks time and altitude profiles and warns when supplemental oxygen is needed.’

The monitor was originally developed to offer Space Shuttle and Space Station crewmembers added independent notification about any depressurisation.

Two major incidents spurred Zysko to create the monitor, the Mir/Progress collision in June 1997 and the Payne Stewart aircraft accident in October 1999.

Possible applications beyond aviation and aerospace include scuba diving, skydiving, mountain climbing, meteorology, underwater habitats, hyperbolic pressure chambers, altitude chambers, and positive/negative pressure vessels.

‘If this technology can help avoid even one incident or accident,’ Zysco said, ‘it will have been worth all the effort and resources put forth over this past year.’

During the next phase of the monitor’s development, Zysko intends to integrate carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide sensors into the unit for more complete aviation and aerospace environmental monitoring.