Navy Pilots Resume Flying Jets With Broken Oxygen System

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

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Navy pilots will resume training on an aircraft that deprives them of oxygen Monday, although the service has not determined why the jet’s life support system is broken.

The Navy does not have a permanent fix for the aging aircraft’s systems, but pilots will use oxygen tanks not connected to the flawed system, and won’t fly above 10,000 feet for the foreseeable future, reports the Associated Press. More than 100 pilots refused to fly the T-45C Goshawk earlier this month, but have agreed to resume flight training after the Navy developed a workaround that doesn’t depend on the aircraft’s on-board oxygen generation system.

“The pilots don’t feel safe flying this aircraft,” one pilot told Fox News at the beginning of the strike. The pilots went on strike, saying they feared what the Navy calls “physiological episodes,” when a pilot experiences dizziness, tingling fingers, cloudy judgment or a loss of consciousness due to lack of oxygen. (RELATED: Why Are Navy Pilots Refusing To Fly This Particular Jet?)

Fixing the oxygen issue “will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand all causal factors and have identified a solution that will further reduce the risks to our aircrew,” Navy Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker said in a statement Saturday.

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 problems with the Navy’s training jets are similar to issues on the F-18 Super Hornet and Growler models. “Since May 1, 2010, all models” of the F-18 “show steady, yearly increases in the number of physiological episodes,” according to a congressional staff memo reported by Bloomberg News in March.

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