Need To Breath

Need To Breath


I got a call today from a friend asking me about oxygen requirements.  That got my brain pondering about the different items the FAA would like all pilots to know. I did a little refreshing and found several other tidbits directly from the FAA that I thought worth sharing. No matter what you’re flying, I think these apply to all of us. 

First off, what are our general oxygen requirements? If you jump on over to the FAR’s and take a look at 91.211 you’ll see: 

1. At cabin pressure altitudes above 12,500ft MSL to 14,000ft MSL, pilots
required to use oxygen unless the segment is less than 30 minutes of flight.

2. At cabin pressure altitudes above 14,000ft MSL, the crew is required to use

3. At cabin pressure altitudes above 15,000ft MSL, each occupant must be
provided the use of oxygen. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to use it.

Things get a little more in depth when you get to pressurized aircraft.

These requirements are also listed in 91.211: 

1. If you’re flying above Flight Level 250, a 10 minute supply of oxygen is
required for each person onboard.

2. If you’re flying above Flight Level 350-410, and one pilot leaves their seat, the other pilot will be required to wear an oxygen mask, unless both seats are equipped with quick-donning oxygen masks.

There are three basic components to any oxygen system in an aircraft:  the storage system, the delivery system, and the mask or cannula. First, there are several types of storage systems. 

Gaseous aviators breathing oxygen is the first. This is the standard green tank that everyone is familiar with. There are two types of tanks. Either the high- pressure with 1800-2200 psi or the low pressure tank with 400-450 psi. The major issue with these and General Aviation aircraft is weight. Some of these tanks can get bulky and heavy and therefore don’t work for everyone. 

Liquid aviators breathing oxygen or LOX is another form of storage. The major advantage of LOX is that it has a 900 to 1 expansion ratio, meaning that 1 liter of liquid oxygen can be expanded into 900 gaseous liters of Aviators Breathing Oxygen. The disadvantages of LOX are they are extremely volatile and have to be stored at -197F. If it comes in contact with exposed skin, severe frost bite can occur. 

Sodium chlorate candles or oxygen generators have a weight advantage like LOX. They’re essentially a canister that when activated mix sodium chloride and iron powder and produce oxygen. They general have a 600 to 1 expansion ratio, which goes back to the weight savings. However, once these are started they are very hard to stop. Another disadvantage is these devices produce a fair amount of heat, so proper precautions need to be taken. 

Next are the delivery systems. The main systems are Continuous Flow, Diluter Demand, and Pressure Demand. Continuous Flow, is exactly as it sounds. The oxygen is allowed to flow continuously from the tank to the user. The benefits of continuous flow are you don’t need a complicated mask or regulator. The downside to this system is since it continuously pumps oxygen, you’re wasting oxygen when you exhale. Most of continuous flow systems are used on aircraft that generally fly below 28,000 feet. 

Diluter Demand was designed to fix the negative of the Continuous Flow systems. Diluter Demand only sends oxygen to the user when the user inhales. The system also allows cabin air to be introduced in, sending the perfect mixture of oxygen to the user when needed. These systems are very efficient and generally tend to be used up to 40,000 feet. 

Pressure Demand is designed to essentially “over inflate” the users lungs. This will basically pressurize the the users lugs and allow the user to fly above 40,000 feet. This is needed at flights above FL400 because 100% oxygen without positive pressure will not suffice. 

The final portion of the oxygen system is the mask or cannula. Nasal cannulas generally are more comfortable and are regulated to 18,000 feet service altitude. Masks come in a couple different variants. From re-breathers to quick-donning, most masks accomplish the same task with a few small differences. Quick-donning must be able to be put on within five seconds and are rated up to FL400. 

Since that was a lot of information, what does all of it mean to you? Most fair weather flyers will never run into any of this. However, the high performance owner/operator will run into oxygen use situations a fair amount. Taking the family up to Colorado on a ski trip, jumping up to 12,500 feet to get above some weather, or flying above 5,000 feet at night on a long xc are all situations where you may want to have oxygen on board. 

If you are planning on doing any of this type of flying or are currently doing these types of flights, training is a must. If you’ve never been in an altitude chamber, I would highly recommend it. In college, I went with a group to Oklahoma City to the FAA’s headquarters where they hold a class on Hypoxia and High Altitude flying. It’s very informative to be in the chamber as it simulates being oxygen deprived. You get to see how you’ll react and what kind of symptoms you’ll have when in a loss of oxygen situation. Each person has different symptoms, so it’s important to see how you will react.

It’s also good to fly with an experienced instructor. Finding an instructor who will allow you to learn in a safe environment is worth its weight in gold. 

Ryne Bergren is currently a First Officer with Mesa Airlines in the CRJ 900. Ryne has experience in many different areas of aviation, from corporate to airlines to teaching to ferrying across the Atlantic Ocean. His passion is for all things that travel across the big blue sky.

Flying to the Bahamas


A couple weeks ago, my employer informed me that he wanted to take a group to Nassau, The Bahamas. I thought, no big deal, this should be an easy trip. The more I started to read, though, the more I realized it wasn’t going to be just a “normal” trip.

If you aren’t a member of AOPA, I would highly recommend joining. AOPA’s website was where I started researching. They actually have a checklist to help you along the way.

The first step is getting the paperwork started. All souls on board are going to need a valid passport. In our case, a couple of passengers need to get theirs. Since it was a little shorter notice, we had to go through the expedited process. It’s fairly simple. A quick internet search gave me a couple of people that helped the process along.

Next was making sure the aircraft had all it’s paperwork. The airworthiness certificate was easy as it’s always in the plane (or should be).

The registration certificate was next to check. We recently upgraded to the King Air 350 so we had to make sure we had the original issuance registration certificate. The Bahamas supposedly doesn’t allow Temporary Certificates and I really didn’t want to test that policy.  Thankfully after a couple of calls between owner and the FAA we got the original.

The aircraft and pilot are both also required to have an FCC Radio License. This is only for international flying, but not an everyday thing pilots think about.

After that was flight planning. I use The actual filing of the flight plan was very easy. I use the prescribed routes from the website. In the remarks section of the flight plan put ADCUS (Advise Customs). This advices ATC to let customs know of your arrival. It’s basically an added safety net in case you forget to call ahead or your flight times end up being way off.

The other item when dealing with flight planning is dealing with eApis. There are numerous companies who will provide this service for you. I elected not to use one of those. If you go to the CBP website, you can set up an account and do all of it yourself. Take your time and really plan the flight out well to make sure your arrival times are as close to real time as possible. If you’re way off, this will make any customs agent very frustrated and that is not something you want to be dealing with.

Approach charts and en route charts are another hurdle. Thankfully Foreflight has you covered. With my subscription, I already had en route charts. The approach charts were the real issue. In the Bahamas, the only places that have approved instrument approaches is Nassau and Freeport. Fortunately, we were going to Nassau. Foreflight does charge almost $400 for the Caribbean and Bahamas charts.  Emailing the FBO is a good option as they can usually supply approach plates for international flights.

You’ll also need a CBP sticker. This goes on the outside of the aircraft showing customs you’re in the system. This can be found on the CBP website as well. It takes a little bit to get the
sticker in the mail. However, once you pay for the sticker, the receipt can be used in place of the sticker.

The final thing I focused on was picking an FBO. I chose Jet Aviation. They had CAA which gave us a Jet fuel discount. Their facility was excellent and staff was very friendly. The thing that put it over the top for me was how they handled customs. I emailed Jet Aviation all the information for myself and passengers and they pre-filled all the customs forms for me. When we arrived, customs took all of five minutes and then my passengers were out the door.

While in Nassau, I stayed at Breezes Resort. It’s all inclusive so that helps keep the costs down for your owners if you’re a corporate pilot. It’s next to some of the other bigger resorts so there were shuttles available to get to other amenities. The only complaint I might have was the power kept cycling on and off and the internet wasn’t reliable. This proved challenging when trying to plan for the return trip.

The return trip required a lot of the same preparation. Again it was nice to have a good FBO to help prepare the paperwork required to clear customs. Jet Aviation handled the General Declarations for me and my passengers. All I was required to do was file the flight plan and file eApis, which was actually challenging while my internet at the resort was on the fritz.

Don’t forget to call US Customs at your Port of Entry! As this was Ft. Lauderdale for us, I called them twenty four hours in advance as prescribed. The customs agent was friendly and helpful with any questions I had. I think the best advice I can give throughout this whole experience is call ahead and ask lots of questions! Did I say that already?

The morning of the return trip went off with no hitches. Again, Jet Aviation had set up a driver to pick me up and he was on time. Jet Aviation had all the General Declarations paperwork pre-filled out for myself and passengers. Again, I use to file my flight plans. Their service performed flawlessly even though I had heard rumors of flight plans not going through. To curb my bet, I talked with the staff at Jet Aviation and they made a call to tower for me to verify that the flight plan had gone through; of course, it had.

The actual flight out of Nassau was pretty uneventful. The last real hurdle I had was dealing with customs in Ft. Lauderdale, and hurdle it was. When we landed at FLL, ground instructed me over to customs ramp. There was no one to tell us where to park on the ramp. This was extremely frustrating.

A Learjet taxied in prior to us and had taken up most of the ramp but, we found a spot and shutdown. Once we shut down, no one came out to our aircraft. I walked in to talk to someone and was greeted by a Boarder agent who was less than helpful. Since the Learjet had parked first, they got to go through first. Evidently, we were not allowed in the building until they were done. This didn’t make my owner too happy!

Be prepared, though, if another airplane is on the Customs ramp before you arrive.  You are not supposed to get out of the airplane until a Customs agent comes and meets you, even to go to the bathroom.  This can result in large fines.

Once we were allowed in, the process went smoothly. We had to put all of our bags through the x-ray machine. Beyond the x-ray machine, CPB didn’t require any other security measures. On other crossings I’ve done, CPB had opened up bags and sifted through clothes, so just doing the conveyor belt was a surprise. The rest of the trip was fairly commonplace. We stopped in Destin FL for dinner before making our final leg into Dallas. All in all, it was an excellent trip and I’m excited to do another one.

Ryne Bergren works for a Part 91 operation in Dallas flying a King Air 350. Being a Part 91 outfit, he doesn’t get to rely on a “dispatch” or “company” to help with any international flight planning. This was a learning experience for him. Hopefully this will be a help to anyone for future trips.