Tags: Navy | pilots | safety | jets

Report: 100+ Navy Instructor Pilots Boycott Amid Safety Issue

Image: Report: 100  Navy Instructor Pilots Boycott Amid Safety Issue
T-45 jet trainers (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

By    |   Tuesday, 04 Apr 2017 10:42 PM

More than 100 Navy instructor pilots have stopped flying because they say top officials have not immediately addressed problems with the oxygen systems on their training jets, according to news reports Tuesday.

"The pilots don't feel safe flying this aircraft," an instructor pilot told Fox News.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas told Fox: "There is no question that there are problems that are being covered up.

"I am very concerned about the issue," he added. "It's been getting worse over time — and if you look at the statistics, the older airplanes are having bigger problems than newer airplanes."

Among the student pilots affected by the boycott are Marine First Lt. Michael Pence, the son of Vice President Pence, Fox reported.

Poisoning from the faulty oxygen system, particularly on the T-45 Goshawk training jet, have led to physiological episodes with pilots — and they have quadrupled in the past five years, senior naval aviators told Thornberry's committee in testimony last week.

The toxins cause "histotoxic hypoxia," a condition that leads to disorientation that could jeopardize the safety of both the pilots and those on the ground, Fox reported.

Two instructor pilots said the problems are now occurring on average of at least three incidents per week. The T-45 jets are 30 years old, Fox reported.

"It can happen without warning," one pilot said. "The system doesn't detect contaminants."

However, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of naval aviation, told Fox the issue with the training was the "number one safety priority" across naval aviation right now.

"Right now, we don't have the smoking gun," he said, telling Fox that 10 instances in T-45s occurred just last month.

The Fox report cited these recent incidents based on interviews with several flight instructors:

  • Last week, a student from training squadron VT-86 in Pensacola, Fla., was "dragged out" of his jet because he had become "incapacitated" from the faulty oxygen system.
  • In March, a British exchange instructor pilot with thousands of flying hours had to conduct an emergency landing during a training flight near Meridian, Miss., after both he and his student experienced hypoxic symptoms.
  • In August of last year, a flight instructor and his student were forced to eject from their plane near Kingsville, Texas, when they felt symptoms of hypoxia, crashing the jet. Both pilots ejected safely and were not seriously injured.

Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld told Fox that 40 percent of instructor pilots refused to fly their training flights Friday — though one instructor said the figure was nearly 75 percent, since the Navy reduced the number of flights knowing the pilots were going to boycott.

In addition, the Navy sent engineers and other specialists this week to its T-45 training bases in Kingsville, Meridian, and Pensacola to talk with pilots, Fox reported.

Shoemaker said flights resumed at Kingsville after the meeting there, Fox reported.

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More than 100 Navy instructor pilots have stopped flying because they say top officials have not immediately addressed problems with the oxygen systems on their training jets, according to news reports Tuesday.
Navy, pilots, safety, jets
476
2017-42-04
Tuesday, 04 Apr 2017 10:42 PM
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