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A Much Needed Breath of Fresh Air from the FAA

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Today the FAA Announced in its updated notice of Rulemaking Documents that it has updated 14 CFR Part 21 to permit the use of select portable oxygen concentrator (POC) devices onboard aircraft effective February 18, 2014.

Review of this approval under Docket No. FAA-2013-1013; Amendment No. 121-367, has been in deliberation since July 14, 2004, when the FAA issued a notice of proposed rule making on the use of these devices.

Specifically this amendment to SFAR 106 adds the SeQual Technologies eQuinox (model 4000) and Oxywell Oxygen System (model 4000), and VBOX Inc.’s Trooper to the list of POC devices allowed onboard commercial aircraft.  AirSep Corporation’s LifeStyle and Inogen, Inc.’s Inogen One were already approved for use on commercial flights since the revision of SFAR 106 published in July 14, 2005.   The FAA notes that the SFAR 106 has been “amended six times to allow passengers to use additional devices.”

The FAA is confident that the approved medical oxygen technologies (POC devices) pose no threat to safety.  As many will know, compressed gases are always a significant concern for safety in part to flammability.  Oxygen feeds flame.  Furthermore, pressurised cylinders pose a threat of explosion if they are not properly sealed and maintained.  These concerns had to be addressed in order for the FAA to approve the particular devices added with this revision to SFAR 106.

The FAA clarifies in their announcement: “Each manufacturer has included technical specifications for their devices in each request for approval as well as the required documentation from PHMSA and the FDA.

The FAA explains: ”Numerous manufacturers have developed small POC devices that work by separating oxygen from nitrogen and other gases contained in ambient air and dispensing it in concentrated form to the user with an oxygen concentration of about 90%.  The POC devices operate using either rechargeable batteries or, if the aircraft operator obtains approval from the FAA, aircraft electrical power.”  They emphasise that “no covered device may contain hazardous materials as determined by PHMSA, and each device must also be regulated by the FDA”

Say the FAA: “Before publication of SFAR 106, passengers in need of medical oxygen during air transportation faced many obstacles when requesting service.  Many aircraft operators did not provide medical oxygen service aboard flights, and those that did often provided service at a price that travellers could not afford.  Coordinating service between operators and suppliers at airports was also difficult, and passengers frequently chose not to fly because of these difficulties.”

As we focus on #PaxEx luxuries and treats, it’s easy to lose track of the most vital passenger experience enhancements which contribute to quality of life for those who might otherwise be prevented from visiting family and friends, or enjoying travel during a well-deserved retirement.  Freedom and dignity and well-being are key passenger experience factors.

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