Navy pilots have reported 461 physiological episodes in F/A-18 fighter jets and T-45 trainer aircraft since May of 2010 — an average of more than one every six days, Navy officials say.
Yet the source of the problem remains unclear despite years of study and the recent completion of a 30-day review led by Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific Fleet.
On Thursday, Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of naval operations, briefed reporters about additional safety measures coming as a result of the review that are designed to curb this bedeviling trend.
The Navy intends to immediately add a water separator in the T-45's Onboard Oxygen Generation System, or OBOGS, a component common in high-performance jets but not found in the training aircraft. "Without a water separator in that system," Moran said, "we believe that there's a potential for water moisture to get in there and not provide effective, dry air."
"There are a number of those components being delivered and installed as we speak," Moran said Thursday.
A new mask configuration — there have been 300 new masks recently delivered to training centers — will continue to be implemented in the training aircraft as well. T-45 instructors are already using the redesigned masks, and the plan is to have flight-starved students begin using them soon.
"They're out in the training command today," Moran said. "Instructors are doing warmup flights and using that mask before we put students in the airplane to make sure that they understanding procedures."
Navy student pilots have been without planes for almost two and a half months, but with the addition of the new measures, Moran said he expects "to get our student pilots back in the airplane for warmup flights some time in the next couple weeks." (end of excerpt)
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WASHINGTON --- The Navy released the results of a comprehensive review conducted to determine the causes of and recommendations to eliminate physiological episodes (PEs) within Naval Aviation June 15.
In April Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran directed Adm. Scott Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, to lead a comprehensive review (CR) of the facts, circumstances and processes surrounding recent PEs involving T-45 and F/A-18 aircrew.
The CR examined the following factors:
-- Organizational factors, including command, control and communications;
-- PE analysis and trends;
-- PE corrective actions and processes;
-- Aircrew breathing air systems;
-- Cabin pressurization systems;
-- Cockpit environmental monitoring and alerting systems;
-- Physiological factors, including aircrew monitoring;
-- Aircrew procedures, training and proficiency;
-- Maintenance infrastructure and procedures;
-- Medical training, emergency response and research;
-- PE lessons, including those from other government agencies and countries.
The CR concluded several steps should be taken to reduce PE numbers and risk. These include:
-- Establish a single, dedicated organization to lead Naval PE resolution efforts. This temporary organization should be headed by a Naval Aviator Flag/General Officer, embrace the "unconstrained resource" approach and fully incorporate all stakeholders.
-- Redesign aircraft systems to meet oxygen generation system technical requirements.
-- Execute a multi-faceted approach to improve ECS reliability, particularly on the FA-18. This effort must address component reliability, system inspections and testing.
-- Embrace and resource a methodical PE root cause corrective action process for each aircraft under the single, dedicated organization tasked to lead PE efforts. Additionally, standardize and improve the PE investigation and adjudication process.
-- Establish an integrated life support system program at Naval Air Systems Command that, at a minimum, manages Naval Aviation oxygen generation and connecting systems; cabin environment and pressurization systems; and physiological monitoring. This program must regularly leverage the lessons of other organizations managing similar technologies.
-- Address PE reporting shortfalls, including physiological monitoring; aircrew alerting; and cockpit audio, video and habitability recording.
Based on the findings of the report, the next Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) will be a more experienced aviation flag officer. The increase in seniority is meant to improve flight safety, address current instructor concerns, and ultimately resume student training. Rear Adm. Jay Bynum, currently serving as Commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine and a two-star admiral select, is scheduled to assume command of CNATRA, later this month.
While the conclusions and recommendations of this CR were developed specifically for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps T-45 and F/A-18, PEs are a known problem in other aircraft and services. Elements of this report will be of value to those attempting to address PEs throughout the U.S. military.
The report can be found on the Navy's website at www.navy.mil/local/pes
or by clicking here