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Technical Support Document

Traveling (air or rail) with a Medical Oxygen Cylinder

November 16, 2001


Catalina Cylinders has been asked quite often, "Can someone take a DOT-3AL (aluminum) medical oxygen cylinder on an airplane?" The answer to this question is yes, but there is a complex process involved and this may all be overruled by the rules and regulations of the passenger airline carrier.

Quite often Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171- 180), specifically 49 CFR 173.302(a)(5), has been incorrectly quoted as the reason why aluminum cylinders charged with oxygen are not allowed on commercial passenger aircraft. This section states the following:

"Specification 3AL ( 178.46 of this subchapter) cylinders are authorized only for the following nonliquified gases: air, argon, carbon monoxide, diborane, ethylene, helium, mercury free hydrogen, krypton, methane, nitrogen, neon, oxygen, and xenon. Flammable gases shipped in 3AL cylinders are authorized only when transported by highway, rail, and cargo-only aircraft."
There are two reasons that this section has been incorrectly quoted as to the reason why aluminum cylinders charged with oxygen are not allowed on commercial passenger aircraft.

First, this section only applies to cylinders in commerce, not cylinders being transported for personal use.

Second, oxygen is not a flammable gas. Oxygen is one of three components required for fire to occur. The first component is a combustible product, the second is a source of ignition and the third is oxygen.

Aluminum cylinders charged with oxygen for personal use can be carried aboard a passenger aircraft if the requirements in 49 CFR Part 172.102 Special Provision A52 and 49 CFR Part 175.10(b) are met.

49 CFR Part 172.102 Special Provision A52 states the following:

"A cylinder containing oxygen, compressed, may not be loaded into a passenger-carrying or in an inaccessible cargo location on a cargo only aircraft unless it is placed in an overpack or outerpackaging that conforms to the performance criteria of Air Transport Association (ATA) 300 for Type I shipping containers."
49 CFR Part 175.10(b) states the following:

"(b) A cylinder containing medical-use compressed oxygen, owned or leased by an aircraft operator or offered for transportation by a passenger needing it for personal medical use at destination, may be carried in the cabin of a passenger-carrying aircraft in accordance with the following provision:

(1) No more than six cylinders belonging to the aircraft operator and, in addition, no more than one cylinder per passenger needing oxygen at destination, may be transported in the cabin of the aircraft under provisions of this paragraph (b);

(2) The rated capacity of each cylinder may not exceed 850 liters (30 cubic feet);

(3) Each cylinder and its overpack or outerpackaging (see Special Provision A52 in 172.102 of this subchapter) must conform to the provisions of this subchapter;

(4) The aircraft operator shall securely stow the cylinder in its overpack or outer packaging in the cabin of the aircraft and shall notify the pilot in-command as specified in 175.33 of this part; and

(5) Shipments under this paragraph (b) are not subject to -

(i) Subpart C and, for passengers only, subpart H of part 172 of this subchapter;

(ii) Section 173.25(a)(4) of this subchapter.

(iii) Section 175.85(i)
Although the sections of the 49 CFR regulation identify that medical oxygen cylinders for personal use can be taken on passenger aircrafts, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD) of the DOT also states in its "Consumer Guide To Air Travel" in section 5 under "Hazardous Items" that it is illegal to carry on board or check in your luggage any of the following hazardous materials: specifically noting oxygen cylinders (unless they're empty).

With regards to passenger aircrafts, traveling with a charged medical oxygen cylinder on a passenger aircraft is allowed by DOT regulations in the CFR, is not allowed by the ACPD of the DOT in its Guide, and may be allowed or declined by the rules and regulations of the specific passenger airline carrier. Prior to traveling, please contact your specific passenger airline carrier for their position on traveling with medical oxygen cylinders.

With regards to passenger trains, we at Catalina Cylinders interpret 49 CFR 173.302(a)(5) to mean that aluminum cylinders charged with oxygen are allowed on passenger trains regardless if for commerce or personal use. We have followed this up with a call to AMTRAK at 1 800 USA-RAIL (1 800 872-7245) and have been advised that portable medical oxygen cylinders are allowed on passenger trains. AMTRAK also made the following recommendations:

1. The oxygen cylinder must be removable from any cart with wheels during the trip.

2. The oxygen cylinder must not require plugging into an electrical outlet.

3. It is highly recommended to take two times the supply required, a second oxygen cylinder, in case the trip takes longer than expected.
In conclusion, if you are currently using, or are planning on traveling with someone who uses medical oxygen, we recommend that you consult your doctor prior to traveling. We also recommend that you contact the passenger airline carrier or rail system that you plan to use for travel, prior to traveling, and discuss your personal use of, or need for medical oxygen.


Catalina Cylinders - West
Corporate Headquarters

7300 Anaconda Avenue
Garden Grove, California 92841 USA
Phone: (714) 890-0999
Fax: (714) 890-1744
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Catalina Cylinders - East
Cliff Impact Division

2400 Aluminum Avenue
Hampton, Virginia 23661 USA
Phone: (757) 896-9100
Fax: (757) 896-9143
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