In Marvel's The Avengers (2012), When Captain America and Banner first board SHIELD's Helicarrier, agent Romanoff (Black Widow) warns them to get inside because it would become 'hard to breath' while on deck. Later during the flight when Fury was talking with Loki about 'ants and boots' as Loki was locked in the carrier Hulk cage, Fury disclosed that the carrier was flying at 30,000 feet.

Knowing that between 8,000 and 12,000 feet, hypoxia causes the first signs of diminished performance and at 15,000 feet the hypoxic effect becomes increasingly apparent. At 20,000 feet, even the hardiest, most durable, and experienced pilots can scarcely be able to see, much less read the instruments or demonstrate complex motor skills. His or her hearing, perception, judgment, comprehension, and general mental and physical faculties are practically useless. The pilot would be on the verge of complete collapse and unconsciousness. An inexperienced person would be far more adversely affected by the hypoxic effects of high altitude.

How then can Hawkeye perform such feats of visual and mental acuity as well as complex fine motor skills after strenuous physical exertion at 30k feet? Granted, his team is shown to have been wearing small oxygen generators but Barton was mask-less. Does he have some heretofore unknown or extra powers beyond archery?

  • 7
    He can hold his breath for a really long time.
    – Xantec
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 18:58
  • “Hard” is not same as impossible. Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 17:51
  • I think that the MCU generally treats being on the deck of the helicarrier as "a really high platform" and nothing else. In the Agents Of SHIELD finale, Mack and a bunch of other agents and staff are seen standing and meeting on the deck of a helicarrier in flight with no protection against the elements, though it's unknown how high the helicarrier is.
    – user25730
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 21:27
  • being possessed by a demigod/alien might go a long way
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


In 1978, Reinhold Messner climbed Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. So it might be possible for Hawkeye to function at 30k feet since, I'm certain, he's as physically fit as its possible for a normal human to be.

  • 2
    I think this is probably the case, although stumbling the last few feet up a mountain is different than hitting a target with a bow and arrow in heavy wind. I think it depends on how "nearly superhuman" you assume the not-quite-superhuman members of the Avengers to be.
    – PeterL
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 19:19
  • 3
    Hypoxia causes impairment of vision, lassitude, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, euphoria, and temporary psychological disturbance. From what I've been able to find out about Hawkeye, he possesses very keen eyesight and exceptional reflexes but the only trace of any superhuman type abilities besides his skill in archery and his eyesight is his ability to resist sonic attacks (derived from his near-deafness). Exceptional vision being the main physical attribute of an archer means that any Hypoxia caused vision impairment would be a serious problem.
    – Morgan
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 0:24
  • On the other hand, there's evidence that exceptional vision is not the main physical attribute of an archer.
    – kojiro
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 3:42
  • I wonder how well he does with areal, moving or unknown distance targets.
    – Morgan
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 3:57
  • Actually if the Movie Universe Hawkeye is like the Ultimate Hawkeye he does have some genetic modification to his visual ability, granting superhuman sight which could have negated the effects of Hypoxia on his eye sight.
    – Monty129
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 11:26

He was still under Loki’s influence at the time, so perhaps that made him able to continue functioning despite the lack of oxygen (i.e. A Wizard Did It, I guess)?

  • 2
    That's always what I thought, that basically whatever effect the staff had on it's thrall was it put their body on auto-pilot.
    – Monty129
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 11:21
  • 1
    I think Dr. Selvig mentioned that the soul stone showed him things which let him build the portal device. Maybe the soul stone showed Barton where to shoot.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 1:49

Barton's newfound ability seems to be covered under the TV Tropes rules of engagement by combining;

'Required Secondary Powers' http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RequiredSecondaryPowers


'New Powers as the Plot Demands' http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NewPowersAsThePlotDemands

The story arc required the Helicarrier to be attacked by Barton and his team in order to disperse the Avengers, disrupt SHIELD and free Loki. But having (Renner's) face covered with a breathing mask/oxygen generator just wouldn't do so they ditched it and quietly gave him a new power hoping I wouldn't notice.

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