By Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Breathing is often taken for granted on the ground but for aircrews performing high altitude air drops, it’s vital as air pressure decreases, leaving them in a potential life or death situation.
Thanks to the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel cryogenics Airmen, pilots and aircrew can breathe easier as they provide global Combat Airlift.
As part of the 19th LRS Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants flight, cryogenic Airmen fill and maintain containers with liquid oxygen to provide fresh air to aircrew in flight.
“Liquid oxygen, also called aviator’s breathing oxygen, or LOX, is a pilot’s main source of air above 10,000 feet,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jesse Frady, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel cryogenics journeyman.
LOX is pressurized oxygen that is cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it into a boiling liquid. It’s so cold, the Airmen wear face shields, coveralls, gloves and boots to protect their skin from contact burns.
Once in liquid form, it’s transported more efficiently from holding containers to aircraft.
“Crew chiefs issue the fluids from the carts to the aircraft then bring them back here to be filled again,” Frady said. “We take the carts and issue LOX from our 6,000 gallon bulk cryogenic container. We also take a sample to test before we push them back out.”
LOX Airmen test the samples using filter paper inside a sample odor beaker. They fill the beaker and wait 30 minutes for the liquid oxygen to evaporate. They then smell the filter paper to make sure the cart is not contaminated.
“The most important part of our job is ensuring the liquid oxygen is clean and pure so the aircrew don’t receive poisonous LOX,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Richard Hayes, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel cryogenics journeyman.
Four Airmen work in the cryogenics shop to produce two to six 50-gallon carts daily. They supply C-130J aircrew with fresh oxygen to perform high altitude air drops, air medical evacuations and emergencies.
“I think POL, as a whole, is one of the most important jobs because an aircraft can’t fly without fuel; you also can’t fly an aircraft if you don’t have air.” Frady said.