Scuba Skies—The Precautions to a Safer Experience

I was talking to a close friend a couple weeks ago and she was telling me all about her scuba diving certificates and the places she has dove. She has gone to the Keys of Florida and even some quarry sites in a few other states! This summer she has decided to take on a whole new course and pursue certifications beyond her Advanced Open Water (AOW) with Professional Diving Instructors (PADI) training. I definitely admire her drive for adventure and bravery to swim with sharks but shipwreck snorkeling might be the deepest I ever desire to go. If you are also someone who loves the thrills of scuba diving yet all things flying, let’s quickly review some safety rules before you mix these two hobbies. 

If you are the pilot or the passenger, both should allow sufficient time before flying after a scuba dive to allow the body enough time to rid itself of excess nitrogen absorbed during a dive. Not taking heed to these rules may result in decompression sickness due to evolving gases during altitude exposure.

Here’s what the regulations say:

Flight altitudes up to 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 12 hours after diving without a controlled ascent
  • Wait at least 24 hours after diving with a controlled ascent

Flight altitudes above 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 24 hours after any dive (controlled or uncontrolled ascent)

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the topic. According to AC 61-107B:

“Scuba diving requires breathing air under high pressure”. There is a considerable increase in the amount of nitrogen dissolved into the body under these conditions. In other words, the body is nitrogen saturated. The greater the depth of the scuba dive, the more the body is saturated in nitrogen. Nitrogen is distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system. The AC continues to state that “as atmospheric pressure is reduced as a result of ascent, the equilibrium is upset. This results in nitrogen leaving the body by passing from the cells, to the blood, and then out through the respiratory system. If the nitrogen is forced to leave too rapidly because of a large partial pressure difference, bubbles may form, causing a variety of signs and symptoms”. These symptoms can include abdominal pain, pain in the ears, toothache, and severe sinuses if the person is unable to equalize the pressure changes. Yikes!

Let’s take the proper precautions for a safer scuba dive experience if you decide to fly soon after. Have you ever gone or plan to go scuba diving? Leave a comment below!