Oxygen makes up almost 21% of the earth’s atmosphere and is the third-most abundant element in the universe – but why is Liquid Oxygen (LOX) so beneficial to the rotorcraft industry?
Ahead of its debut at Helitech International, we spoke to Tina Masters, Marketing Director at Essex Industries to discuss the benefits of LOX in the rotorcraft industry and its key role on board for EMS Helicopters.
What are the benefits of liquid oxygen use in the rotorcraft industry?
Liquid oxygen (LOX) systems provide four primary benefits when used in the rotorcraft industry: Reduced weight, Increased space, safety and reductions in operating costs.
- Reduced weight
Liquid oxygen increases in volume 860 times as it converts from a liquid to a gas. That means a smaller amount of LOX will produce a large volume of gas, reducing weight on the helicopter by eliminating the need for multiple cylinders without sacrificing capability.
- Increased space
The same 1:860 liquid to gas ratio that reduces the cargo weight also increases the amount of available space on a helicopter. A single LOX converter eliminates the need for carrying multiple high-pressure cylinders, increasing the amount of usable space while supplying more gaseous oxygen.
LOX systems have operating pressures under 100 psi, as compared to high-pressure cylinders at 1800-2200 psi. This makes the units less volatile and therefore safer in the event of an accident.
- Reductions in operating costs
Because of the increased capacity, LOX allows a team to fly more missions between refilling which reduces maintenance time spent servicing the system.
What are the typical uses for the technology?
The typical use for LOX is to provide breathable oxygen for life support. Essex Industries originally entered the market in 1963 with a line of LOX converters designed to supply oxygen for pilots and crew of military fighter/transport aircraft. We went on to develop a complete line of LOX equipment to support military medical operations, with products ranging from the OGL, a self-contained oxygen generator, to the BMOS, a portable medical oxygen system easily carried into the field.
The technology developed for military LOX systems led to similar advancements in the commercial medevac marketplace. LOX systems are found on both fixed wing and rotary medevac platforms, where they provide direct support for patients and run oxygen-powered devices, such as ventilators.
What are the opportunities / challenges for uptake in the European market?
We see great potential for LOX in the European HEMS market. Recognising that every market has its own characteristics, the primary benefits found in the U.S. market of more oxygen with reduced weight and increased space have application worldwide. As with any market, the challenge is always to learn as much as we can about the customers’ requirements and what is necessary to transfer the technology.
What has delayed the uptake of liquid oxygen equipment to date?
In our opinion, it is a matter of awareness of its availability and the related logistics in the European market—not of the technology, itself. With European HEMS operators attending U.S. tradeshows where LOX is being displayed, awareness in Europe is on the rise. In fact, it is new interest from operators in Europe that led Essex to exhibit at Helitech this year. It will also take some time to develop the first EASA-approved STC for the installation of LOX on a helicopter, in Europe, despite LOX being widely approved by the FAA for use in the U.S. market.
What will visitors to your stand at Helitech be able to see?
At Helitech, Essex will exhibit the two most popular LOX converter sizes, the 7-Liter and the 10-Liter RTI (Ready to Install). Along with these, we will display select accessories, including the Wall Outlet, LOX Quantity Indicator, Heat Exchanger and Fill Harness Kit. Most of the components for a complete LOX system and support equipment will be on display.
Essex will also feature several platform controls that we have designed and manufacture, such as the Bell 525 grip and pedestal, as well as a variety of aircraft components for rotary applications.
To find out more about liquid oxygen and to meet the Essex Industries team at Helitech International, visit stand L31 at Helitech International 2018.