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I admit, this comes from the original “Independence Day” movie from 1996, but during the first dogfight scene one of the characters claims they can't breathe and takes their mask off. Another character tries to order him to put the mask back on. I assume that he couldn't just look into the other person's cockpit. Is it possible in such a scenario to know that another pilot isn't wearing their mask?

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  • $\begingroup$ Just a guess. Isn’t the radio microphone located in the mask. Except for helicopter pilot helmets, I have not seen any military pilot helmets with microphone booms attached. In a loud environment like a cockpit, it is hard to hear the pilot unless the microphone is almost touching their lips. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. May 22 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Not that I should be using Independence Day as the height of realism, but in the scene before the characters are seen talking without the masks on $\endgroup$ – Michael Stachowsky May 22 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ The cockpits are pressurized, so they aren't on continuous oxygen. The mask is on mostly in case of depressurization, and also because the mic is in the mask. If a pilot is below 10000 ft and undoes his/her mask, they will have to hold it to their face when talking. If the mic is 6 inches away because the mask is hanging down, the voice won't come through very well over the ambient noise. You will know immediately if someone doesn't have his mask on as soon as they talk. $\endgroup$ – John K May 22 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ "...one of the characters claims they can't breath and takes their mask off." Might this be how the other character knows?! $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall May 22 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelStachowsky - I know what you mean. I was highly disappointed when my Delorean could not break the time barrier. 😜. But seriously, almost nothing in Hollywood is done without some serious artistic license. Even physics takes a vacation in Hollywood. Especially when aviation is involved. Airplane! the movie could crack the top ten of the most realistic aviation depictions. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. May 22 at 19:24
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No, there's no mechanism to check if a pilot has their mask on. It's sometimes possible to hear the difference in how muffled the sound is. Other than that, it might just be that that particular pilot has a reputation for taking his mask off when he's not supposed to, and the other pilot just assumed that's what happened.

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