Infrared Training Center

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


By Ronald D. Lucier, ASNT NDT Level III/TIR
Infrared Training Center
Nashua, NH  03063

Yes, another “Ron travel story!”

Those of us who travel react differently to the Flight Attendant Safety Instructions.  Some ignore them, some sleep through, the rare person actually pays attention and the multi-million miler has heard it thousands of times.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t listen still and take it seriously.  Many years ago I actually had a flight abort a takeoff and ended up going down the emergency chute!

On 8/30/2016 I was flying Delta 1480 from Hartford, CT to Detroit, MI.  The flight had 80 empty seats, strange.  When I arrived at the gate and saw this I wondered what did other people know that I didn’t…

I had been upgraded to First Class five days earlier and chose seat 2D to get a snooze as the flight was to depart at 540 am.  The graph to the right ( shows we took off about 545 am, right on time.  The pilot brought us to 36,000 feet about 15 minutes later.  I was dozing off when my ears started popping, seriously popping.  This was sometime around 615 am.  I had to keep swallowing.  The plane was level so that meant one thing – depressurization!  Sure enough the Oxygen masks dropped down!

Well, even after 3 Million miles I must admit my heart raced a bit but I remembered the instructions on how to put my mask on.  My seat mate did too.  The other 10 First Class passengers did not!  Maybe they think hypoxia is a joke.  Maybe they can’t spell hypoxia?  If we were going to be a lawn dart I sure wanted to see it end!

Anyway, the pilot headed to lower altitudes (24,000 feet) pretty quickly while we were told it was a problem with the A/C Unit (maybe a valve?).  You can see the descent rate and final altitude below.

I tell all my students that I always have an IR camera with me.  My T650sc was in the baggage hold but my FLIR One was in my laptop case at my feet!  When the sign says “do not touch” it means it! The canister inside is 247 ˚F (119 ˚C), plenty hot to burn.

After about 15 minutes the Oxygen masks were depleted, everyone was calm and we were cruising at 24,000 feet.  My seat mate had an app connected to his phone that read his blood Oxygen level.  I’m not sure I can believe this but it read 87%!  Seems low to me but we were at 24,000 feet with a busted A/C unit.

The lessons here are:

1. Buy a FLIR One – you never know when it will come in handy for writing blogs (shameless self- promotion)

2.Take the airline safety instructions seriously and follow them.

3.Referring to #1 – I do carry at least the FLIR One with me and usually have at a C2, E8 or T650sc with me wherever I go.  We live in an interesting thermal world.  What makes the ITC unique is that all of our instructors are dedicated to constant learning ourselves so we can pass that on to our students.  We do this by taking every opportunity we get to learn more.  This was an exciting, unexpected opportunity I just couldn’t pass up!


  1. I have NO idea what that comment above is about! BUT That is one fo the best stories ever. My prediction is that everybody eventually will be "instrumented" with IR in some form or another, so we can expand our detection of the electromagnetic spectrum into the LW IR. There is just so much more information to be gained by understanding thermal patterns. Beautiful Gary - will try my utmost to get tot he next INFRAMATION. Have a good conference.

  2. Anybody who has ever used an OBA (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) on board ship knows that the oxygen is generated by a MnO2 (Magnesium Dioxide) candle. It is insulated, but when you eject it, the empty is hotter than hell. It sounds like this airline system should be redesigned with an insulating flame retardant sleeve for the great unwashed. I was an Aviation Electrician, USN/USNR with sea duty.