An oxygen mask is an essential component of the equipment that is used by pilots, while flying their planes. This is even more applicable to those who fly fighter aircraft. It is made up of rubber or silicone, and it covers the nose and the mouth of the person who wears it, and provides him with a steady supply of oxygen.
This supply is necessary because at extremely high altitudes, the air pressure is extremely low, and this makes it very difficult, and close to impossible, for the person to breathe. Without it, the pilot will asphyxiate to death, and this can be avoided, with the use of an effective oxygen mask.
There are different varieties and types of oxygen masks that can be used by pilots, and they depend on the speed and the altitude at which the airplane will be traveling. The faster the speed, and higher the altitude, the sturdier should be the mask. Here is the common classification:
- Continuous Flow Masks: These are the most common plastic masks that you will see. They steadily provide a flow of oxygen, and are most commonly used for hospitalized patients. These are most commonly found in airplanes, which passengers can use.
- Pressure-demand Masks: Pilots of medium-level fighter planes, and almost all commercial planes, use them. The steady flow of oxygen is dependent on the pressure conditions outside; so, the pilot needs to be trained in some specialized breathing techniques, before he uses one. They can be used up to an altitude of 34,000 feet or less.
- Diluter-demand Masks: These are worn by pilots of the most elite fighter airplanes. The altitudes at which they can be used go up to about 40,000 feet, and these require highly-intense training, before they can be used. The oxygen only flows through, when the wearer inhales.
They come with an apparatus to attach the entire mask on one's face while flying, which prevents it from falling off. They also come attached with radio equipment and other electronic gadgets, so that the fighter pilot can maintain contact with his commander and his peers all the time, during the flight. They also have a helmet to which they are attached, so that the wearer's face can be protected from various particles, burns, and injuries. Additionally, they are attached to the chairs of the pilots, so that they can be used even when the pilot sets the ejection mechanism into place.
One of the most popular masks around the world today is the KM-32. It was produced first around 1960, and it has been adopted in almost all the countries around the world. Its exact origins are unknown, and today, they are available in many different varieties, with significant upgrades in them. These are the airplane oxygen masks of choice of the air force squadrons of all major countries today.
Without the presence of these masks, the pilots will not receive enough oxygen, especially at extremely high altitudes, to breathe properly. Hence, their importance is one of vital proportions, and no pilot should fly without them.