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Expert: Crashed plane could have lost pressure

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Posted at 6:55 PM, Sep 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-06 12:27:38-04

The pilot of the single-engine airplane that crashed near Jamaica might have run out of oxygen before the plane ran out of fuel.

The fates of pilot Larry Glazer and his wife, Jane Glazer, of Rochester, New York were unknown, according to The Associated Press.

F.D. Yoder, a flight instructor of fighters and small airplanes in West Palm Beach, Florida, said he was not familiar with the particulars of the Glazers’ crash.

But Yoder said that foggy windows observed by U.S. fighter pilots suggested decompression of the cabin.

“The windows fog, just like when you get out of your car in the morning,” Yoder said.

When that happens, the pilots have less than three minutes to get oxygen before euphoria and confusion set in due to a lack of oxygen, he said.

“Your fingernails turn blue,” Yoder said. “Pretty soon you pass out. If you don’t have oxygen available you probably won’t be able get the mask out and plugged in.”

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all planes flying above 25,000 feet to have a pressurized cabin and supplemental oxygen tanks. The pilots would plug into that oxygen in the event of a decompression.

However, Yoder said many small airplane pilots don’t keep oxygen on their planes or don’t have it ready to go at a moment’s notice. Some airports don’t have the means to refill oxygen tanks, which makes maintaining them a hassle.

“As a flight instructor, I recommend that they all have oxygen on board, and oxygen masks plugged in and immediately ready to put on,” Yoder said. “They neglect it.”

He said decompression is a rare event when flying, but flying is always a risk.

“An airplane is not a car you can just jump into,” Yoder said.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk. Follow him on twitter @GavinStern or email him at gavin.stern@scripps.com.