HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Oxygen begins to boil at -297 degrees Fahrenheit and will freeze at around -361 degrees Fahrenheit — in between these two temperatures you have oxygen in liquid form. Handling liquid oxygen, also known as LOX, can be very dangerous and is done on a daily basis by the crew chiefs at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
The 127th Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs fill tanks inside the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which pilots use as their main source of breathing oxygen when they are flying at high altitudes. While the LOX tanks inside the aircraft can hold 5 liters, it usually takes a couple gallons to fill them since the liquid oxygen is constantly evaporating when they are being filled.
Airman 1st Class Molly Michael, 127th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, is fresh out of technical school and new to the job. Under the supervision of Tech. Sgt. Ben Jonkman, 127th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, Michael is able to complete the task without any issues.
"I love working here. I am constantly learning new things every day," Michael said.
When transferring liquid oxygen to the aircraft, special protective equipment is used by the crew chiefs to ensure the job is completed safely.
"We usually have to come out here twice a week, with it taking around an hour and a half to fill all the jets," Jonkman said.
The United States Air Force uses more than 4,000 gallons of liquid oxygen every month and started a program in 1985 to create its own oxygen-generating facilities to produce LOX for aircrews.