If you have flown on a commercial airliner, you have probably experienced the instructions and guidance surrounding oxygen masks and how to properly use them in the instance of an emergency. Even beyond commercial flights, aircraft of all kinds feature oxygen masks as one of their most important forms of safety equipment for passengers and crew members alike. Whether for precautionary purposes or to remain safe during an emergency, there are many ways in which an aircraft oxygen mask may be used, and having a general understanding of their importance and roles can be beneficial for anyone involved in aircraft flight.
To understand the importance of oxygen masks, one must first be aware of the atmospheric conditions that are present while an aircraft is high up within the atmosphere. As one ascends higher above sea level, atmospheric pressure will gradually decrease. This atmospheric pressure decrease also comes with a proportionate decrease of oxygen molecule pressure as well. For a human to optimally sustain adequate blood oxygen saturation levels, they need at least 100 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) of oxygen pressure. At sea level, oxygen pressure is around 160 mmHg, while it will be around 122 mmHg at 7,000 feet. Once someone surpasses 12,500 feet, there will no longer be enough oxygen pressure for one to sustain proper blood oxygen saturation, leading to a dangerous condition known as hypoxia. As hypoxia results in confusion, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, and eventually death, it is paramount that there are safety measures in place in the case that passengers or crew members are exposed to such pressure.
For commercial flights, masks are generally not required as the cabin itself is pressurized to safe levels for comfortable breathing, and thus they act more for redundancy. For example, if the pressurization system fails or there is any issue with the cabin, oxygen masks will deploy, supplying passengers and crew members with around 10-14 minutes of oxygen. While this can seem like not enough time for safety, oxygen supply is only needed until the pilot is able to bring the aircraft under an altitude of 10,000 feet. From there, everyone will have more than enough oxygen pressure to remain safe while the pilot seeks a suitable emergency landing zone.
When the oxygen mask first falls down from its storage compartment, it will begin supplying oxygen as soon as one tugs on it while putting it on their face. The bag that is attached to the mask is not the source of oxygen, rather a deposit, so one should not worry if it is not inflated during use. Additionally, all masks provide oxygen with a pressure level of at least 122 mmHg in accordance with FAA railings. Additionally, the FAA also mandates that each occupant of an aircraft must have at least 10 minutes of oxygen supply so that there is ample time for the pilot to safely descend before oxygen levels become a true worry.
It is also important to understand that the passenger oxygen mask offered in the cabin is different from the masks for pilots, copilots, and cockpit crew members, as such individuals have specialized masks due to their increased risks and responsibilities to ensure safety. Additionally, pilots may even wear masks in non-emergency situations, such as being required to wear one when alone in the cockpit for any direction of time.
With the safety and redundancy that aircraft oxygen masks provide, it is crucial that they are present on any flight, unless a suitable alternative that is permitted is present. On NSN Sphere, we present customers access to a wide variety of aviation parts and components, all of which have been sourced from top global manufacturers that we trust. As all listings are ready for purchase at any time, we encourage you to fill out and submit an RFQ form at your earliest convenience. Once our team receives and reviews a completed submission, a representative will personally reach out to you with a customized quote that caters to your unique needs and interests. Experience why customers continuously rely on NSN Sphere for all their project needs when you get in contact today!
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