At sea level, air pressure is at a comfortable 14.7 psi, the perfect conditions to sustain life. We do not feel any pressure upon us and it is easy to breathe, but these conditions change dramatically when we are thousands of feet in the air on an aircraft. This is due to the fact that air pressure decreases in higher altitudes which creates unlivable conditions. As such, breathing on board a plane at high altitudes would be impossible without specialized pressurization systems. Designed to maintain fresh, breathable air within the cabin, aircraft pressurization systems work to ensure there is enough oxygen present for all passengers and crew members to be able to breathe. For additional information on such parts, read on to learn how these systems work to provide a comfortable atmosphere for all individuals within the vessel.
As air molecules at high altitudes are less dense, they easily spread apart from one another, making oxygen sparse. This means that, as the air thins, humans are not able to take in as much oxygen as they normally would at sea level, and with less oxygen being supplied to the brain, the organ will quickly fail. As such, aircraft pressurization systems have two objectives: to raise the air pressure to accommodate human life and to increase the amount of air circulation present in the cabin to avoid stale air. With their implementation, they are able to provide enough air pressure to maintain human life while also exchanging the air in the cabin every two to three minutes.
In order to keep the cabin properly pressurized, many newer aircraft feature electric air compressors which are powered by the plane’s electric system. These compressors pump fresh air from the atmosphere and into the cabin, while the outflow valve functions to remove old air. To do this, the valve acts as a motorized door that is typically located at the rear of the aircraft. When the pressure in the cabin is too low, the outflow valve closes so that pressure is able to build. However, when the pressure is too high, the valve opens to allow the excess pressure to exit the plane.
These generally automatized systems are foundational components of aircraft, but some people fear there may be adverse effects of being in an environment with pressurized air. The only factor to consider is the low humidity pressurization systems create, and because of this, people may notice themselves becoming dehydrated more often than normal, which is why crew members offer refreshments throughout flights with passengers. Moreover, low humidity may cause one’s senses of taste and smell to deteriorate, which is why many may notice food onboard aircraft tends to be less flavorful.
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