by Pamela Williams
This is a big deal, and it needs to be addressed now by President Trump and Vice President Pence. In fact, among the hundreds of student pilots affected is Marine 1st Lt. Michael Pence, son of the Vice President. Saying this, hopefully the issue will be settled soon. Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of naval adviation, told Fox News that the training jet issue is the number one safety priority across naval aviation right now.
I am concerned, as we are facing the North Korea front right now, along with Syria and I just read Iran is making threats. This is not the time to have a problem of this nature. Our pilots are so brave, and we have to insure their confidence in the planes they use.
Get this: In the last five years, physiological episodes, caused in part by problems with the oxygen system, have nearly quadrupled on the T-45 training jet, according to Capitol Hill testimony last week by senior naval aviators. There is absolutely no excuse for this. I know President Trump is putting millions into our defense budget…now we know why. Obama has let our military down!
Now the Navy is looking at grounding the entire fleet of T-45s for the next few days! I cannot believe this is happening to our Navy!
“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.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement that the Navy “must address these safety concerns swiftly and decisively.”
I am outraged to read of this! How could our pilots fly in good faith in a Navy that would let this happen?
Fox News interviewed multiple Navy flight instructors who say incidents of oxygen poisoning in the 30-year old T-45 Goshawk have “skyrocketed.”
“Histotoxic hypoxia” is the medical term associated with the disorientating disorder which can put pilots’ lives at risk, as well as those of civilians on the ground below. Two instructor pilots say the training jets are now averaging three incidents a week, as the Navy struggles to get to the bottom of the contamination.
Oh, I am infuriated! Can you imagine what our pilots must be going through? With “histotoxic hypoxia”, they will lose all control of their senses, endangering themselves and the population beneath them. How have they even made it back to base?
“It can happen without warning,” one pilot said. “The system doesn’t detect contaminants.”
A number of instructors cited recent episodes as reasons for the abrupt work stoppage.
Last week, a student from training squadron VT-86 in Pensacola, Fla., had to be “dragged out” of his jet because he became “incapacitated” from the faulty oxygen system, according to two flight instructors.
In March, a British exchange instructor pilot with thousands of hours in the cockpit had to conduct an emergency landing during a training flight near Meridian, Miss., after both he and his student experienced hypoxic symptoms.
Last month, there were 10 episodes in T-45s, according to Shoemaker.
Anticipating the pilot protest, the Navy sent a team of engineers and other specialists this week to its T-45 training bases in Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola for talks with the pilots.
A meeting Tuesday in Meridian “got heated,” Fox News is told. The pilots told the civilians from Navy Air Systems Command their complaints about the oxygen system were being ignored. When a senior Navy pilot showed photos of a faulty oxygen system he claimed had been sent up to NAVAIR’s headquarters in Maryland, the engineers said they never received the photos.
Asked about the protest, Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld acknowledged that 40 percent of instructor pilots refused to fly their training flights Friday. A flight instructor said the number was closer to 75 percent, because the Navy reduced the flight schedule knowing more than half the pilots would refuse to fly.
Shoemaker said following a meeting in Kingsville, flights there had resumed.
Just last week, the vice president’s wife Karen Pence visited her son at Naval Air Station Meridian, where her son is in flight training. A source told Fox News she told the commodore in charge of flight training, “Take care of my son” – and a day later the senior Navy officer told a group of instructor pilots he feared he was unable to do that because of the danger posed by the faulty oxygen system.
Across the Navy, training squadron skippers and commodores are telling their instructors to follow their instincts — and not forcing them to fly — much to the appreciation of those boycotting until they feel the issue is resolved, Fox News is told.
“There is not a, you know, ‘Fly or else,’” Shoemaker said.
Some instructor pilots point to Rear Adm. Dell D. Bull, chief of naval air training, as the culprit in ignoring the unsafe conditions.
“He is telling us to just, ‘shut up and color,’” one pilot said.
Some instructor pilots have refused to go along with the boycott and continue flying, but remove the oxygen masks as soon as they take off.
“Most pilots think [Bull] is just dragging his feet and doesn’t want to look bad,” said one pilot, who like the others declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
“It’s the admirals … the people that have the power to fix it that aren’t doing a damn thing,” one frustrated instructor pilot said.
Bull is planning to speak to the instructor pilots in Meridian on Wednesday. Shoemaker is preparing a video message to present to all instructors.
Two senior Navy officials interviewed by Fox News say the Navy is doing its best to tackle the problem.
“We have been working this for five, six years now to try to get to the bottom of this,” one official said.
Both officials acknowledged “communication problems” between the upper echelon of the Navy and the instructors. You know, communications problems make up so many business mishaps and failures…not just in this case, but in businesses and work issues across the board. I have always said this, but when it comes to medial issues, it means life or death.
I am an EMT, and I have worked in hospitals with poor communications between those who simply should not allow this to happen. Communications between different departments and factions within any business in the private sector or in public services – communications must be the main priority. The break in the chain of command is unacceptable on all levels! I do not have any tolerance for this failure, and I have witnessed myself. I have complained to my superiors, and sometimes it has gone on deaf ears. Needless to say, I would rather change jobs than put up with errors in communications. You complain and report once, then you simply do not tolerate it again…especially not in life or death circumstances. These pilots have endured beyond what any reasonable person can endure…it is time to protest and walk out. If you are enlisted in the military, you cannot sue, but in this case these they are doing exactly what they must.
Months ago, the Navy sent the T-45 and other jet squadrons Sorbent tubes to measure the air the pilots were breathing. After each flight, the tubes were sent to a lab in Maryland for analysis. After 1,500 flights worth of air samples, the results remain inconclusive.
“We haven’t come up with anything conclusive … showing a contaminant or something like that,” a senior official said.
The instructor pilots see it differently.
“They sent our squadron six tubes,” one pilot said. “That’s part of the frustration. They are doing the absolute minimum.”
The senior Navy officials say they understand the pilots’ frustration and will soon issue more advanced hydrocarbon sensors which can be analyzed on-site, speeding up the investigation.
The dangers with the oxygen system are not limited to the T-45 training jets either. U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets have been known to suffer similar problems.
I will be watching over this intolerable situation, and I will report on any updates I can find. God bless and keep our Military.
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