Why Are Navy Pilots Refusing To Fly This Particular Jet?

Flickr/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd/Released

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More than 100 Navy flight instructors are refusing to fly a training jet because of ongoing problems with the jets’ oxygen system, Fox News reports.

The top Navy officials are trying to find out why the T-45 training jet deprives pilots of oxygen without warning, endangering both the pilot and civilians on the ground.

Pilots began refusing to fly the training jet late last week. “The pilots don’t feel safe flying this aircraft,” one pilot told Fox News, and the Navy isn’t sure what’s causing the problem.

“Right now we don’t have the smoking gun,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of aviation for the Navy, told Fox News. There were 10 incidents of  “physiological episodes” where a pilot became incapacitated due to the faulty oxygen system, Shoemaker said.

“There is no question that there are problems that are being covered up,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said. “I am very concerned about the issue. It’s been getting worse over time and if you look at the statistics, the older airplanes are having bigger problems than newer airplanes.”

The first T-45s entered the Navy in 1991, and has undergone multiple modernization updates. The oxygen deprivation issue has been increasing for the past 6 years. The Navy and the Marines reported 15 total incidents of hypoxia across both the T-45 and the F-18 in 2009. Aviators reported 115 incidents in 2015, 31 occurring in the T-45 alone.

The problem, and the protest, could effect Vice President Mike Pence’s son, who is in flight training at Naval Air Station Meridian, where an instructor and a pilot in training had to make an emergency landing due to oxygen last month. (RELATED: F-18 Pilots Keep Running Out Of Oxygen During Flight)

The T-45 is not the only military jet to have problems with the oxygen system. “Since May 1, 2010, all models” of the F-18 “show steady, yearly increases in the number of physiological episodes,” according to the memo reported by Bloomberg News.

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