The dirty, dangerous job US airmen do to ensure U-2 pilots can breathe at 70,000 feet
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Eric Harris
- For more than 60 years, the U-2 has lurked all over earth, watching and listening from as high as 70,000 feet.
- Flying the U-2 is already a tough task, and when pilots are up there, they're reliant on a special kind of oxygen.
- Airmen on the ground at Beale Air Force Base, the U-2's home base, are responsible for ensuring pilots have enough of that air.
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Beale Air Force Base, California - When working with fuels it can get dirty and hazardous. 9th Logistic Readiness Squadron (LRS) fuels facility operators know how to stay safe, and clean in a dirty career.
Working with liquid oxygen is vital for U-2 pilots and the mission.
"Pilots rely on us to make sure they can breathe while wearing their suit," said Senior Airman Corey Walton, 9th Logistic Readiness Squadron fuels facility operator "We are always careful and critical to make sure nothing goes wrong when transferring liquid oxygen."
Liquid Oxygen (LOX) is called Aviator's Breathing Oxygen (ABO), it's a pilot's main source of air at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet.
"LOX is a cooled pressurized gas, and it is minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit," said Senior Airman Parker Turk, 9th LRS fuels facility operator. "It's so cold we wear coveralls, gloves, face shields and boots to protect our skin from contact burns."
After servicing and testing, the LOX is transported to the flight line where it is put into an aircraft safely for the U-2 pilots.
The reason fuels wear white is because it allows them to see any oil or fuel. Staying clean and healthy is important.
With six fuels airmen in the cryogenics section, they work around the clock to issue up to 500 gallons a week of LOX.
"To be honest, I know fuels is one of the most important jobs because planes can't fly without fuel, and you can't breathe if you don't have air," Turk said.
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