October 1, 2011
By John S. Yodice
Rule FAR 91.211 requires supplemental oxygen for general aviation (noncommercial) operations (airliners and some other commercial operations and aircraft have stricter requirements). I present this review at this time because gradually, over the years, more and more GA aircraft are operating at higher altitudes where the rule kicks in. I can simplify this review for the reader by focusing on the requirements that apply to the particular aircraft that one flies. So, let’s differentiate aircraft as either (1) an unpressurized aircraft that does not carry supplemental oxygen, or (2) an unpressurized aircraft that has supplemental oxygen, and (3) a pressurized aircraft.
What about occupants of the aircraft who are not required flight crewmembers? Passengers? At or below 15,000 feet msl, the PIC need not assure that occupants, other than the required flight crew, have supplemental oxygen available to them. Above 15,000 feet msl each occupant of the aircraft must be provided with supplemental oxygen. Notice that the PIC is responsible to assure that supplemental oxygen is available to the other occupants, but the PIC is not responsible for assuring that the occupants use the oxygen.
Now to the special requirements specifically for pressurized aircraft that are operated above the key altitudes of FL250 and FL350. At flight altitudes above FL250 there must be a least a 10-minute supply of supplemental oxygen available for each occupant of the aircraft, including flight crewmembers. This reserve is required in the event of a descent due to a loss of cabin pressurization. This minimum supply is in addition to the oxygen that may be necessary to meet the above requirements common to both pressurized and unpressurized aircraft.Aircraft operating at flight altitudes above FL350 are usually certificated to require more than one pilot. However, we are seeing more aircraft certificated for single-pilot operation. At flight altitudes above FL350, one pilot (maybe the only required pilot) at the controls is required to wear and use an oxygen mask at all times above that altitude. The mask must be secured and sealed.
If there are two pilots at the controls and each has a quick-donning type of oxygen mask available, neither pilot need wear the oxygen mask. This exception does not apply when one pilot leaves the controls of the aircraft for any reason. Then, when operating at the flight altitudes above FL350, the remaining pilot at the controls must put on and use an oxygen mask until the other pilot has returned to that crewmember’s station.
John S. Yodice owns and pilots a Cessna 310.
Reviewing this regulation will make you a more effective plane spotter when ATC calls out fast traffic in busy (and haze-laden) airspace.
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