US Navy resuming T-45C flight operations with new safety measures

T-45C Goshawks on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). Photo: US Navy

The commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces announced on April 15 that the navy is lifting the operational pause for the T-45C Goshawk training jets on Monday, April 17.

The jets were grounded earlier this month after pilots reported a lack of oxygen in the cockpits.

Flight operations will resume using a modified mask, tested by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), that circumvents the aircraft’s On Board Oxygen Generator System (OBOGS).

The navy said that instructor pilots would initially conduct warm-up flights, after which they will brief the remaining pilots and students in their squadrons on use of the modified equipment. As the week progresses all instructor pilots will complete their warm-up flights, followed by warmups and training flights for student pilots.

“After briefings and discussions with our aircrew, their training wing leadership, the engineers, and aeromedical experts, we have identified a way forward to resume flight operations safely by limiting the maximum cabin altitude to below 10,000 feet in order be able to operate without using the OBOGS system,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) explained.

“We will be able to complete 75 percent of the syllabus flights with the modified masks while we continue the important engineering testing and analysis at PAX River [Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland] to identify the root cause of the problem. This 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.”

Finding the root cause is a challenge on this complex, highly sophisticated platform. “We have energized the force, are working with outside agencies, and established an Integrated Project Team (IPT) at NAVAIR, along with an aeromedical crisis action team of flight surgeons, physiologists and toxicologists. All teams are immersed in this effort and working with the same sense of urgency to solve our physiological episodes across the fleet,” Shoemaker said.

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