For as long as military aviators have air-dropped paratroopers, smart-alecky airmen have asked: "Why do you guys jump out of perfectly good airplanes?" Sure, it's a hackneyed expression, but really, why do they do it?

One possible explanation for this inclination for airborne extrication is hypoxia. The poor fellows just aren't getting enough oxygen to their brains. They don't know any better.

This theory, logical as it may seem, was debunked by Tech. Sgt. Don Blackwell. He's an aerospace physiology technician, who ensures aircrews and parachutists breathe easy when air is rare. He belongs to the 19-member 1st Aeromedical Squadron Aerospace Physiology Flight at Langley Air Force Base near Hampton, Va., where he's the high-altitude airdrop mission support manager.


by Tech. Sgt. Pat McKenna
photos by Master Sgt. Val Gempis