• Cabin depressurization: Understanding pressure on aircraft

When you board an aircraft, you may not consider the importance of atmospheric pressure. But have you ever heard of cabin depressurisation?

In this article, we will address this topic and give you a clear perspective on how aircraft pressurisation works.

Why is aircraft pressurization vital?

At high altitudes, the air is much lighter than at the surface. As the aircraft climbs, the outside air pressure is reduced. As a consequence, without a system to balance this, breathing in mid-air could be problematic.

For this reason, aircraft are equipped to replicate a terrestrial-like environment.

Undoubtedly, flight attendants are crucial. For you to know more about these professional, here you have 10 facts you probably don’t know about flight attendants.

How pressurization is carried out

A step-by-step overview

Starting the process: Engines, specifically their compressors, draw air from the environment, compress it and some of this air (called “bleed air”) is diverted to the aircraft’s air conditioning and pressurisation system.

  • Air conditioning: The engine heats the air, before entering the cabin, it is cooled and mixed with recirculated air, ensuring optimum temperature and humidity.
  • Introduction and regulation: Conditioned air enters the cabin, increasing internal pressure. Exhaust valves in the aircraft release the excess air, balancing the pressure.
  • In-flight maintenance: The pressurization system adjust the amount of air entering and leaving the cabin, in order to maintain stable conditions, even when the aircraft changes altitude.
  • Controlled depressurisation: When descending, the system regulates the internal pressure to align it with the atmospheric pressure at the landing site.

In addition, this process not only allows us to breathe comfortably but also prevents health problems, such as altitude sickness, and ensures a pleasant journey.

What happens if there is a depressurization?

If, for some reason, the cabin loses its pressure, this can manifest itself gradually or suddenly. In the latter scenario, people may experience symptoms of oxygen deprivation such as dizziness.

And, in order to demystify concepts: Although it may look like it from movies, depressurization won’t suck you out of the plane by a broken window. However, pressure difference may cause objects’ displacement.

Action protocol in case of depressurization

  • First of all, the aircraft security system automatically detaches oxygen masks, and the crew assists passengers to put them on.
  • Secondly, pilots execute a controlled descent to safer altitudes and communicate with air traffic control to coordinate an emergency landing.
  • Once safely on the ground, specialists assess and correct the problem. Some passengers may require medical attention.

Cabin depressurization is only anecdotal, so don’t worry

Although it is a rare situation, when it does occur, it highlights the skill and training of the crew. Despite what you may see on film, it is an infrequent occurrence. Let us not forget: Aviation is one of the safest means – let’s continue to fly with confidence!

For more information about the fascinating world of aviation, be sure to visit our aviation blog, where we cover topics such as turbulence and more.

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