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Navy to equip T-45 jets with new system after oxygen issues

Navy to equip T-45 jets with new system after oxygen issues
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Following a rash of incidents during which pilots appeared to suffer from oxygen deprivation, the Navy will install new oxygen-level monitoring systems on all T-45 training jets by February. 

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Republicans start turning the page on Trump era MORE (R-Miss.) announced Wednesday that the systems should help alert Naval pilots “to dangerous declines in oxygen production or pressure levels.”

This is the first time a target date has been set to attempt to fix the issue.

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T-45s were temporarily grounded earlier this year after about 100 pilots, including Vice President Pence’s son, refused to fly them. They cited a rash of incidents in which pilots appeared to suffer from oxygen deprivation, known as hypoxia. 

The planes were allowed to fly again after being outfitted with upgraded oxygen sensors.

And in October a Navy instructor and a student died when their T-45 crashed in east Tennessee, though it is not yet known whether oxygen deprivation was a factor. 

“Some pilots operating these particular jets have experienced physiological episodes (PE), such as losing oxygen, breathing contaminated oxygen, or undergoing cockpit decompression,” Wicker said in an statement.

Wicker noted the Navy has grounded any T-45 “lacking the full collection of modifications.”

“In addition, the Navy is developing a new automatic backup oxygen system scheduled for future installation across the T-45 fleet,” he adds.

The T-45 is not the only aircraft causing the military issues with hypoxia. The Air Force in June temporarily grounded a squadron of F-35 fighter jets in Arizona to figure out why five pilots suffered from oxygen deprivation. The service also suspended flights for T-6 trainer pilots at Vance Air Force Base, Okla. Those squadrons have since resumed training. 

Navy F-18 and E/A-18G Growler pilots, meanwhile, have also reported similar problems.

In an attempt to get a handle on the problem, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act — signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE on Tuesday — contains language to help the Pentagon figure out the cause.

One provision authorizes Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Biden under pressure to remove Trump transgender military ban quickly Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties MORE to offer a $10 million prize “to incentivize the brightest minds in academia and industry to help find the root cause or causes of PE,” Wicker said.