As expert in hyperbaric simulation and operations, COMEX created its altitude simulator in 2016. This test facility recreates pressure conditions at altitude. This altitude chamber is now a reference tool for the aeronautics and space industry, to meet their needs for validation and certification of new equipment.
The growing need for pressure vessels means allowing to put human subjects in hypobaric conditions has pushed COMEX to create and transform its hypobaric chamber for nearly 10 years. This 20m² altitude simulator is able to accommodate several actors (subjects, medical staff, technical staff) at the same time and to simulate flights up to 40 000 feet (~12000m) of altitude. These tests are systematically performed under medical supervision.
To this end, COMEX has joined forces with Phymarex: a group of doctors, nurses and researchers who are experts in underwater, aeronautical and space medicine. These specialists have been using hyperbaric and hypobaric chambers to treat various pathologies since the 1970s. During the 2000’s, they started a collaboration with occupational physicians in the aeronautical sector, in order to assist them in the realization of studies on the flight personnel. Gradually these studies were carried out in the COMEX altitude simulator. Further, in 2016, the Regional Health Agency (ARS) granted COMEX approval to carry out tests, under medical supervision on healthy subjects.
This approval has led to a wide variety of tests being carried out. Research and development on medical equipment, onboard equipment such as oxygen masks and smoke protection hoods. But also physiological experiments for adaptation to very high altitude environments
Or finally, as explained by Dr Mathieu Coulange (Head of the hyperbaric center of the APHM) for the sensibilization to the hypoxic risks for flight personnel.
« Or finally, as explained by Dr Mathieu Coulange (Head of the hyperbaric center of the APHM) for the sensibilization to the hypoxic risks for flight personnel. “We install them on a flight simulator and we reproduce the cabin environment. After having them breathe air at the beginning of the session, without warning them, we will switch them to a 12% under-oxygenated mixture, they will feel symptoms due to hypoxia, which they will have to announce, to be able to prepare them to detect the lack of oxygen which could happen when there is a cabin depressurization or when the oxygen masks malfunction.»
To date, more than 150 people have participated in these simulated flights, without a single medical accident.
Throughout its history, COMEX has demonstrated its ability to push back the limits of professional diving thanks to two axes: innovations in equipment and a better understanding of the physiological effects of high pressure.
It is now continuing this work by focusing on altitude and very high altitude.