April 2019

Why does not every airplane have oxygen masks

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Anyone who has ever sat in an airplane knows the nice announcements of the flight attendants, who demonstrate the safety instructions on board at the same time. The oxygen mask that would fall from the ceiling in an unlikely event of a cabin pressure loss are also demonstrated there. Very important!

“Put on the mask yourself before helping children and other passengers”

There is a good reason for it. Because at the altitude of 10,000m, in which many planes fly, you only need two to three breaths and you would be unconscious. This is due to the low air density, which only allows you to inhale very little oxygen per breath.

What happens after a pressure drop?

When an airplane has oxygen masks on board and there is a rapid pressure loss, the masks fall out of the ceiling. Thereafter you draw them to you, which starts the oxygen supply.

The oxygen on board just lasts for 15 minutes. It does not matter if you breathe slowly or completely normal.

The oxygen just flows out. 15 minutes is not long and this is pretty similar for every plane. What does that mean?

So we know that we cannot breathe at this altitude without oxygen and then the oxygen is only enough for a short time. As a result, in the event of a rapid pressure loss (which is very rare), the pilots initiate a rapid descent.

What is a steep descend?

This flight condition of the steep descent is a stable, fully controlled flight condition that can be intercepted again at any time into a horizontal flight. The plane does not fall from the sky, although you may think you do. We train this scenario of descent again and again in the simulator.

The descent is stopped again at an altitude of 3,000m and the flight continues in an altitude of 3,000m. However, if you ever experience this, the pilots will not fly to your destination airport.

Rather, a nearby airport is approached, since the plane probably is damaged. Otherwise the pressure would not have dropped so fast.

Why can you breathe again without an oxygen mask?

At an altitude of 3,000m, you can breathe normally without an oxygen mask. Otherwise all skiers, who also drive at 3,000m above sea level, would need oxygen. Therefore, the descent from 10,000m to 3,000m must happen within the 15 minutes in which the oxygen is supplied, Therefore, the descent is also quite steep, so that the time is respected.

Why are there planes without oxygen masks?

But there are also planes that do not even have oxygen masks in the ceiling paneling. Are these planes now more unsafe?

No. This is not the case. But these planes exists. Why are they allowed to fly around without masks?

The reason is that these aircraft are allowed to fly no higher than 25,000ft, which is 7,620m. At this altitude, you will not be unconscious as fast as in 10,000m. The air gets thinner and thinner towards the top. Therefore, it makes a huge difference in the altitude at which an aircraft flies. But nevertheless, the altitude must be left and a steep descent will be initiated.

A descent from 7,620m to 3,000m, happens so fast that no oxygen masks are required and there is no danger for the passengers.

Therefore, there are no oxygen masks under the ceiling, especially for airplanes that fly very short distances.

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