Pulse oximeters are invaluable devices that determine the saturation of oxygen in your blood within seconds.

They are inexpensive enough to not have to think twice about purchasing, yet ensure you have enough time to take safety measures before the effects of oxygen deprivation, which can be life-endangering when flying, can set in.

In short, there is no excuse for any pilot who regularly flies at higher altitudes to not keep one in their flight bag at all times.

Best Pulse Oximeters for Pilots

Top Pick: Zacurate Pro Series 500C Pulse Oximeter

Top Pick Highly accurate, fast readings, and a clear OLED display make the Zacurate Pro Series 500C our top pick .

New: $34.99
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The Zacurate Pro Series 500C features everything a pilot needs from a pulse oximeter.

First and foremost, I found it to be highly accurate, giving SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation levels), pulse rate, and pulse strength readings in just 10 seconds.

I appreciated the crystal clear, OLED display, and ability to adjust the brightness level to ensure I could view the readings at just a quick glance in any lighting.

Additionally, the auditory alarm will come in handy to warn you when your SpO2 and Pulse Rate is beyond set limits.

Best With App: Wellue Pulse Oximeter & App

Best With App The Wellue Pulse Oximeter is your best option if you want compatibility with an app.

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The ability to view real-time readings on a phone with its large display and record and store readings up to 10 hours continuously can be particularly beneficial for pilots.

Apart from this, what makes the Wellue Pulse Oximeter & App a great choice for pilots is its flashing and auditory alarm that warns you of abnormal readings, access to unlimited historical data, and OLED display screen.

Best Value: LPOW Finger Pulse Oximeter

Best Value Accurate, reliable, and a large OLED backlit display make this model a great budget pick.

Accurate and reliable, the LPOW Fingertip Pulse Oximeter was able to determine my blood oxygen saturation levels, perfusion index, pulse rate, and pulse strength in as little as 8 seconds.

Results were displayed on the device’s large OLED backlit display to ensure readings were quick and easy to view at all times.

You can’t do better than the LPOW Finger Pulse Oximeter for the price.

Best for Multifunction Use: Garmin D2 Air Aviator Watch

Best for Multifunction Use The Garmin D2 Air Watch is much, much more than just a pulse oximeter.

New: $499.00
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The Garmin D2 Air Aviator Watch may not immediately spring to mind when you’re shopping for a pulse oximeter, but this is no ordinary watch.

Besides acting as a GPS receiver, barometric altimeter, utilizing an instrument-like HSI course needle to keep you on the right flight path, and letting you access weather reports, the Garmin D2 watch takes full advantage of its wrist-based design to gauge the saturation of oxygen in your blood quickly, naturally, and easily.

Important Things to Consider If You’re a Pilot Buying a Pulse Oximeter

  • Accuracy

The most important thing to consider when buying a pulse oximeter is its accuracy. It’s typical for readings to have +/- 2% margin of error, which is sufficient for a pilot’s needs, as long as you err on the side of caution. Any greater than that and you should look at another model.

  • Brightness Adjustment

A pulse oximeter with a brightness adjustment feature can prove to be very useful in a cockpit where lighting conditions can vary every time you fly.

  • Sound Alarm Function

To maintain situational awareness while flying, a pulse oximeter that warns you through an auditory alarm can be a very welcome feature, though it’s possible you may struggle to hear this over engine noise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do pilots really need to buy a pulse oximeter?

Any pilot who flies above 10,000 feet MSL should buy a pulse oximeter, as it acts as the best defense against hypoxia.

What is an acceptable oxygen saturation level?

Health and lifestyle factors can affect oxygen levels, but if a pulse oximeter starts to show that you are below 90%, your mental function will start to deteriorate. At this point, either supplemental oxygen should be used, or you should descend to a lower altitude, until the reading shows 90 percent or above blood oxygen saturation.

How often should a pilot check their oxygen saturation levels?

In our opinion, it’s recommended that pilots check their oxygen saturation levels as often as every 10-15 minutes.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.