Aircraft Cabin Oxygen

Have you ever wondered how fresh oxygen in an aircraft is
processed and circulated for breathing? If this thought hadn’t crossed your mind in the past, you may be thinking about it now due to the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus. Even at the highest altitudes, cabin oxygen is suitable for breathing without the use of a respiratory device and without any additional effort, but how? 

Where does it come from?

In simple terms, aircraft (of all sizes) get fresh oxygen from the air outside the plane’s fuselage. The endless supply of oxygen allows aircraft to utilize this resource to provide the pilots and passengers with safe air to breathe and a comfortable experience in the cockpit and cabin. This oxygen source is plentiful and available at all elevations.

Photo credits: Bombardier

How is it processed?

At high altitudes, outside air does not contain enough oxygen and therefore needs to be processed before being circulated around the cabin. Aircraft are designed to process air to make it safe to breathe. Air enters through the plane’s jet engines where it passes through several machines to be further processed. The air is heated to high temperatures where it is compressed, turning it into breathable air. Once this process is complete, the air can enter the cabin. 

Some of the air that is taken in through the jet engines is used for combustion to power those engines using a combination of fuel and air. The rest is processed for use in the cabin. Once the air is heated by the engine, killing the germs, viruses and bacteria, it is cooled down to cabin temperature before being circulated within.

The air will then exit the cabin through outflow valves at the aft of the aircraft and no recirculation is necessary. One full cycle can take less than two minutes to complete due to the smaller cabin size in a private jet. The air is constantly refreshed with air from outside, so there isn’t the need for a larger filtration system used on commercial airliners. It is necessary for outside air to go through this process, so pilots and passengers have fresh air to breathe during the duration of the flight.

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