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

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

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 WickerThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE on Tuesday — contains language to help the Pentagon figure out the cause.

One provision authorizes Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court 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.