A Guide to Aircraft Oxygen Systems

Oxygen comprises twenty-one percent of the air we breathe, but as you ascend into the atmosphere, air pressure and oxygen density decreases. This makes it difficult for your lungs to inhale an adequate amount of oxygen, posing various risks to humans. When it comes to constructing aircraft, many factors need to be considered. This includes the operating elevation of the vehicle and which oxygen system would best support its crew and passengers. Critical to the role of sustaining life at high altitudes, pressurized oxygen systems are implemented to supply those aboard an aircraft with sufficient breathable air. Within this blog, we will discuss the primary types of oxygen systems that are used for aircraft at various altitudes and how they each function.

Pressure-Demand Oxygen Systems

In conjunction with a hose and full-face mask, pressure-demand oxygen systems work best at or above 34,000 feet. Though oxygen is needed for our everyday functions, the gas is highly flammable and should be handled with caution and consideration. If there is a possible leak within the system, an unwanted outflow of oxygen can lead to potential hypoxia and the explosion of components if ignited. As the aforementioned parts create an air-tight seal to reduce any gaseous leaks during use, pressure-demand regulators function to positively reinforce the lungs with pressurized oxygen. Varying on model, modern masks associated with these systems can include regulators directly attached, eliminating the need for a hose and the requirement of purging air before oxygen can be received.

Diluter-Demand Oxygen Systems

Unlike continuous flow systems, diluter demand oxygen systems do not supply a continuous stream of air to the pilot and crew. Commonly seen amongst transportation and high-performance aircraft flying up to 40,000 feet, diluter-demand systems only supply air to a pilot when breathing in. Otherwise, oxygen flow within the system is stopped and conserved for future use. Differing from continuous-flow systems, demand regulators within this system continuously reduce oxygen pressure until it's ready for inhalation by a crew member. Based on altitude and pressurization, varying regulators can be used to control the amount of oxygen inhaled.

Continuous-Flow Oxygen Systems

Continuous-flow oxygen systems operate by sending oxygen from a tank valve to a regulator that is connected to the top of the tank. From there, pressurized oxygen is sent through cannulas to a continuous-flow oxygen mask where it can be breathed in. If needed, the pressure of the oxygen can also be adjusted through the regulator. In modern passenger-centric aircraft, these features can be more complex. Commonly consisting of automatic regulators that rely on aneroids to control airflow, these components are dependent on the escalation of altitude to increase the amount of oxygen dispersed. For both manual and automatic systems, air flow is continuous, regardless of whether a passenger or crew member is wearing a mask. As a prevalent feature seen amongst continuous-flow oxygen systems within commercial aircraft, supplementary oxygen can also be supplied through descending overhead compartments in the case of an emergency. To avoid the risk of oxygen deprivation in the event of sudden cabin depressurization, air is directly provided through tubing affixed to a full-face mask above, or near, passenger seating.

Although oxygen systems installed to reduce the risk of hypoxia when flying at high altitudes are quite robust and advanced, all components inevitably need to be replaced. For reliable aircraft oxygen systems, look no further than Aerospace Aces, your reliable source for various aviation, NSN, and electronic parts. Due to our quality control and export compliance, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation. If you would like to request a quote for your comparisons, you can submit an RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt, a dedicated account manager will quickly review and respond with a personalized solution to your needs in just 15 minutes or less, 24/7x365.


January 10, 2024

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