A months-long investigation into oxygen shortages in the cockpits of T-45 trainer jets and other Pentagon planes has failed to unmask the root cause.
“To date we have found no smoking guns” for what’s causing oxygen toxicity in pilots flying the T-45s, Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags told Congress on Wednesday, Stars and Stripes reported.
The process of pinning down the root cause for the T-45 issue has been intensive. Teams of engineers and scientists ranging from defense contractors to NASA have spared no resources in getting to the bottom of it, Sputnik reported. Nevertheless, despite taking apart the plane’s entire oxygen system piece-by-piece, “we still have not been able to find what we would consider a proximate cause,” Grosklags said.
“We have torn some of them apart to the extent that took every component, every single component in that gas path, that breathing gas path, out of the airplane starting with the engine and moving through the entire system. Inspecting all the piping in between all the way up to the mask that the aircrews wear,” the commander added.
Hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the blood and bodily tissues, harms the brain, liver and other organs within minutes of symptoms arising, according to WebMD.
Pilots with hypoxia are susceptible to symptoms including confusion, faster heart rate, shortness of breath and accelerated breathing while flying. The condition must be treated at a hospital.
Since 2012, the number of adverse physiological responses in airman flying the T-45s has quadrupled.
What’s even more mysterious is that the problem seems to have appeared on other aerial platforms in addition to the trainers.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis remarked June 10, “It’s the same [On-Board Oxygen Generation System] box in the Harrier. It’s the same OBOGS box and we don’t have a problem in Harriers. So what’s different? What is different in the T-45s?”
Air crews flying legacy F/A-18 Super Hornets have begun reporting oxygen system breakdowns as well, Stars and Stripes noted, while hordes of F-35s have fallen victim to the issue, too.
Several squadrons of $100 million and up F-35 Joint Strike Fighters have been grounded indefinitely over oxygen deprivation irregularities at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The 55 jets that won’t be going up in the air anytime soon comprise about 25 percent of all F-35s defense contractor Lockheed Martin has produced to date, DefenceWeb pointed out.