If you’ve ever hiked a mountain, you know that as altitude increases, oxygen decreases. The thinness of the air leaves you hungry for breath and feeling more lethargic than you’d be at sea level. Because of this concept, pilots and flight crew must be provided supplementary oxygen to maintain alertness while working at 30,000 feet. Aviators’ oxygen, which is 99.5% O2, is FDA approved for in-flight crew to avoid a condition called hypoxia. With aviators’ oxygen, pilots and flight crew can safely operate and work within an aircraft while maintaining alertness and sound judgment as they transport and care for passengers.
A constant stream of supplementary oxygen isn’t necessary during a flight because the cabin is pressurized at around 6,000 feet. However, hypoxia is a condition that pilots and astronauts must be prepared to navigate if they experience a sudden lack of oxygen at high altitudes. If at any point the depressurization of the cabin is at risk, oxygen masks will eject from overhead, and pilots will direct the plane to a lower altitude with safe breathability. This is when individuals are directed to put on their masks first before assisting others. The same principle applies: if the adult, or the pilot, is not coherent enough to manage the situation, it won’t do the more vulnerable party much good.
The type of oxygen and its portable system differs for passengers and flight crew, simply, because flight crew need to be more alert than the passengers – particularly the one’s captaining the airplane. While overhead oxygen is typically generated through a chemical reaction via sodium chlorate, oxygen systems that are built into the aircraft are supplied with aviators’ oxygen, or cylinders are taken in and out for refilling.
Initially, hypoxia’s physiological effects on the body are like being under the influence – but, much more sudden. When hypoxia strikes, unconsciousness and even death can occur within minutes. Symptoms vary person to person, but physical symptoms include the following:
– Dizziness and tunnel vision
– Numbness and tingling
– Nausea and fatigue
– Hot and cold flashes
– Headaches and “air hunger”
Each of these physical symptoms can lead to mental symptoms that impair judgment:
– Apprehension and confusion
Hypoxia becomes more of a risk the higher an airplane is flying. It is important for pilots to know the appropriate times in flight to implement aviators’ oxygen as a resource for the safety of everyone onboard.
Small regional aircrafts flying at lower altitudes typically do not require the use supplementary oxygen for flights as short as 30 minutes. For an in-flight length any longer than this, or up to 14,000 feet, pilots will need to put on a canula or oxygen mask, as these planes are often unpressurized.
Commercial aircrafts and jets travel upward 40,000 feet but can safely travel because the cabin is pressurized. It is essential to have plenty of supplementary oxygen on hand, though, particularly for international flights, and in case of cabin depressurization, in which supplementary oxygen will need to be used to avoid impaired judgment or any of the symptoms listed above.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers can be altered to various pressures below or above sea-level and are used to train pilots to act quickly when at the risk of impending hypoxia. All pilots complete such training, and oxygen cylinders or bulk liquid oxygen can be purchased through an atmospheric gas supplier for flight simulations.
Rocky Mountain Air is a supplier of aviators’ oxygen in the rocky mountain region, which is home to many airline hubs, particularly at Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport. Portable oxygen systems and cylinder sizes vary depending on the size of the aircraft, its storage capacity, the length of the flight, and the number of flight crew. Obviously, a larger aircraft with larger storage traveling transatlantic will be able to support larger cylinders. RMA is equipped to assess which option may be best.
With certified purity, cylinder inspections, and streamlined delivery options, RMA serves airline customers with flawless dependability so that crew and passengers can get where they need to go safely. RMA operates out of locations in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, and Wyoming, and serves both regional and international airlines and airports. Contact your local branch today to discuss delivery services and orders of aviators’ oxygen today. We look forward to serving you!