LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- 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 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 Senior Airman Jesse Frady, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel cryogenics
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
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
“The most important part of our job is ensuring the liquid
oxygen is clean and pure so the pilots don’t receive poisonous LOX,” said Senior Airman Richard Hayes, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel cryogenics
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.