The Air Force has identified the sources of the hypoxia problem in its T-6 trainer aircraft, and is taking steps to remedy them. The service announced Sept. 14 that the measures include:
* A redesign of the aircraft’s oxygen system.
* Adjustment of oxygen levels during flight.
* An increase of maintenance of the oxygen distribution system.
The service implemented the changes after a six-month probe conducted by Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). The study focused on fluctuating cockpit oxygen levels, which were identified as the reason why pilots and student pilots experienced hypoxia. The variances accounted for the issue, even when oxygen levels were above physiologically required minimums.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of the 19thAir Force, ordered a halt to T-6 operations in February. The AFMC ordered an independent review team to investigate the causes of hypoxia. During their probe, they found that the oxygen system filter and drain valves failed much more frequently than anticipated. Maintenance crews have since either replaced or repaired the faulty valves.
The Air Force is working with the plane’s manufacturer, Raytheon Company’s Beechcraft Defense Company, to adjust the valve system’s software algorithm to stabilize oxygen levels.
The Air Force also is in the process of implementing new maintenance procedures, drawn from the best solutions used at Air Force and Navy T-6 bases. Maintenance teams, for example, have determined that the valve systems operate more efficiently and accurately when excess water is removed from them. Additionally, T-6 pilots are receiving extra training to identify and take remedial actions in the case of hypoxia and other potentially dangerous events.