Air travel for children with chronic pulmonary disease is usually safe, but the potential hazards must be considered. The high altitude, obviously, is that which provides the potential problem. Before specifically relating the problem to the children, a few words are in order concerning airline procedures and policies.*
The simulated altitude within the airplane's cabin is dependent upon two factors. The first is the actual altitude at which the plane is flying, and the second is the pressure differential between the cabin and the outside. Each type of airplane can fly at a different maximal altitude and each type of airplane has a different capability of bringing down the simulated cabin pressure. At any specific altitude, the atmospheric pressure in the outside environment is known (Table I).
Most of the time, flights are lower than the maximum altitude possible. For example, the maximum altitude for a DC-10 is 40,000 feet, though it usually flies at about 35,000 to 37,000 feet for long-distance flights. Meanwhile, the DC-10 is capable of being pressurized to a maximum cabin-atmosphere differential of 8.6 pounds per square inch.† (Usually a little less is obtained to minimize an operational noise problem annoying to passengers.) Assuming a flight at 35,000 feet, the atmospheric pressure is 3.40 psi. Adding the maximum 8.6 to 3.4 equals 12.0, which is the atmospheric pressure at 5,500 feet above sea level. At 40,000 feet, the 8.6 is added to 2.72 psi. A psi of 11.32 is equivalent to a little below 7,500 feet.
- Received April 9, 1975.
- Accepted July 15, 1975.
- Copyright © 1976 by the American Academy of Pediatrics