So You Think You Can Fly

So You Think You Can Fly

How agonising.  Does it feel familiar? You’re on holidays and you’ve just been told a rare species of marine life is roaming an isolated dive spot. And guess what? You never had an encounter before. It’s on your bucket list. And have another guess. Today’s your final day of an exciting diving trip and you want to top it off. And you’re flying tomorrow... The thought it makes you sick by figure of speech.


Diving and flying are not a happy combination, unless you take your precautionary and effective measures. The waiting time between diving and taking off is determined by decompression. One rule of thumb dictates that it is wise to wait for 18 hours before you fly if you have performed several recreational no-decompression dives. This is supported bij PADI and other diving-related organizations. It’s of paramount importance to allow yourself generous time to get rid of the nitrogen that has ‘invaded’ your body and has been absorbed by your system. You are accumulating nitrogen in your body with each dive. Another rule of thumb dictates a 12 hours waiting time between your last dive and flying when you have done one no-decompression dive only.


When nitrogen forms bubbles in your system we’re talking symptoms of decompression sickness. If you fly too soon after your last dive, you increase the risk of decompression sickness. This is related to decreased ambient pressure on a plane. Please do not take this lightly. You’re taking a huge risk by not respecting the time between your last dive and flying. This is because the plane’s pressure decreases. As a result the nitrogen left in your body will ‘dissipate’ quicker, creating ballooning bubbles in your bloodstream. Again, please don’t make mistake since this is serious business. If these bubbles start invading your blood system, it causes malfunctioning of vital body parts.


Think of paralysis, numbness, circulatory shock and brain function disorder having been attributed to decompression sickness.


The bad news is that you cannot instantly be treated or attended to during your flight which of course isn’t a tempting prospect really. Some people believe the risk is reduced when you fly a small plane. It’s an urban myth. Whether you dive in a pool or out in the open sea, you don’t get less wet in a pool...


Here’s some food for thought:

  • Respect the rule of thumb of 12 or 18 hours

  • Schedule demanding long or deep dives at the start of your holidays

  • Take care of year health; a bad condition increases being prone

  • Set your dive-computer to the correct controls

  • Refrain from excessive alcohol consumption