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Oxygen Masks on Airplanes

Oxygen Masks on Airplanes

Nowadays, every single airplane comes with oxygen masks. This is for the safety of fliers, and it provides them with oxygen supply at times when the air pressure inside the aircraft drops drastically.
Rahul Thadani
Oxygen masks are generally located above each seat in the commercial airplanes, and they are accessible to the fliers at the touch of a button, which is controlled by the pilot. There are some instances, where the atmospheric condition in the plane severely debilitate the breathing capacity of fliers, and in such an event these masks help them.

Oxygen Masks on a Flight

An airplane flies at an average altitude of about 30,000 - 35,000 feet. At such a great height, the air pressure is so low that it becomes impossible for the oxygen to enter the bloodstream of human beings. Even though it is present in the atmosphere, it cannot be breathed by people.

However, the air inside the plane is pressurized, and this enables one to breathe freely. But if there is a crack in the window, or if a door is accidentally opened, the pressure will fall drastically. This will make it impossible for an individual to survive for more than 2 minutes. At such a moment, the masks will immediately pop out, and this will be crucial for the survival of each person. This is why they are present in an aircraft to provide people with the supply of valuable oxygen in an emergency.

Types of Aviation Oxygen Masks

For airplanes that fly at high altitudes, there are 3 types of masks:
  • Continuous Flow Mask - These are used for altitudes below 12,000 feet and are standard masks. They provide a sustained and continuous flow of air to the user, and even recycle the exhaled air. These are most common in all types of planes.
  • Diluter Demand Mask - The oxygen from this instrument reaches the person only upon direct inhalation. For this reason, it needs to be attached to the face of a person and an airtight seal is provided for this purpose. Higher the plane climbs, greater will be the supply from this instrument. It can be used up to the altitude of 34,000 feet.
  • Pressure Demand Mask - These are for altitudes greater than 34,000 feet where the pressure is extremely low. They are primarily used by pilots in the cockpit. Like diluter demand masks, they also need to be completely attached to the user, and the gas enters only upon inhalation. Exhalation is quite difficult with this instrument, though.
They are made of rubber or plastic, and cover almost the entire face of an individual. Due to this reason, it is easy to receive and inhale a steady supply of air through them. Without the help of these oxygen masks in airplanes, people will suffer from hypoxia when the cabin pressure drops suddenly, and this may lead to death.

The cabin crew gives detailed instructions to the fliers on how to use these instruments. There are many other safety rules and guidelines issued and you can ask the cabin crew for assistance any time you want.