Cabin cruising altitudes for regular transport aircraft

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2008 Apr;79(4):433-9. doi: 10.3357/asem.2272.2008.


The adverse physiological effects of flight, caused by ascent to altitude and its associated reduction in barometric pressure, have been known since the first manned balloon flights in the 19th century. It soon became apparent that the way to protect the occupant of an aircraft from the effects of ascent to altitude was to enclose either the individual, or the cabin, in a sealed or pressurized environment. Of primary concern in commercial airline transport operations is the selection of a suitable cabin pressurization schedule that assures adequate oxygen partial pressures for all intended occupants. For the past several decades, 8000 ft has been accepted as the maximum operational cabin pressure altitude in the airline industry. More recent research findings on the physiological and psycho-physiological effects of mild hypoxia have provided cause for renewed discussion of the "acceptability" of a maximum cabin cruise altitude of 8000 ft; however, we did not find sufficient scientific data to recommend a change in the cabin altitude of transport category aircraft. The Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) should support further research to evaluate the safety, performance and comfort of occupants at altitudes between 5000 and 10,000 ft.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Air Pressure
  • Aircraft*
  • Altitude*
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Aviation / standards*
  • Humans
  • Safety / standards