The Physiology of Paragliding Flight at Moderate and Extreme Altitudes
High Altitude Medicine and Biology
Mary Ann Liebert
© 2017, Mary Ann Liebert. All rights reserved.
Reason for embargo
Under embargo until 21 December 2018 in compliance with publisher policy.
The physiology of paragliding flight at moderate and extreme altitudes. High Alt Med Biol 00:000–000, 2017.—Paragliding is a form of free flight, with extreme-altitude paragliding being an emerging discipline. We aimed to describe the physiological demands and the impact of environmental stressors of paragliding at moderate and extreme altitudes. We recorded oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR), respiratory frequency (fR), tidal volume (VT), oxygen saturation, accelerometry (G), and altitude in 9.3 hours of flight at moderate altitudes (to 3073 m, n = 4), 19.3 hours at extreme altitude (to 7458 m, n = 2), and during high-G maneuvers (n = 2). We also analyzed HR data from an additional 17 pilots (138 hours) using the Flymaster Live database to corroborate our findings. All pilots were male. Overall energy expenditure at moderate altitude was low [1.7 (0.6) metabolic equivalents], but physiological parameters were notably higher during takeoff (p < 0.05). Pilots transiently reached ∼7 G during maneuvers. Mean HR at extreme altitude [112 (14) bpm] was elevated compared to moderate altitude [98 (15) bpm, p = 0.048]. Differences in pilots' VT and fR at moderate and extreme altitudes were not statistically significant (p = 0.96 and p = 0.058, respectively). Thus, we conclude that physical exertion in paragliding is low, suggesting that any subjective fatigue felt by pilots is likely to be cognitive or environmental. Future research should focus on reducing mental workload, enhancing cognitive function, and improving environmental protection.
Equipment for the study was provided by the University of Portsmouth Department of Sports Science, the University of Exeter Link Fund Award and Research QR uplift fund. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Dr Juliana Pugmire (University of Glasgow) for review of the manuscript and advice regarding statistical analysis; Professor Adrian Thomas, Professor Sue Ward, Dr Pete Hodkinson, Dr Bonnie Posselt, Dr Tom Yeoman, Dr Ellie Heath; The Free Flight Physiology Project; CASE Medicine; Escape Paragliding, Ozone Chabre Open, SEARCH Projects, Flyeo, Flymaster Avionics and all the pilots who kindly volunteered to take part.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Mary Ann Liebert via the DOI in this record
Vol. 19 (1), pp. 42-51