Safety concerns ground Navy instructor pilots

Since late last week, over 100 Navy instructor pilots have refused to fly as part of a boycott against high-ranking officials for not addressing a dangerous issue with training jets’ oxygen systems.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News, numerous Navy flight instructors reported that episodes of oxygen poisoning in the 30-year old T-45 Goshawk have “skyrocketed.”

Two instructor pilots told interviewers that while the Navy struggles to address the issue, training jets are now averaging three incidents per week in which “histotoxic hypoxia” — a disorientating disorder — occurs. This puts both pilots’ lives and those of civilians on the ground below at risk.

One instructor told Fox News: “The pilots don’t feel safe flying this aircraft.”

Another said, “It can happen without warning. The system doesn’t detect contaminants.”

In testimony on Capitol Hill last week, senior naval aviators said physiological episodes, caused in part by problems with the oxygen system, have almost quadrupled on the T-45 training jet in the last five years.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said:

“There is no question that there are problems that are being covered up. 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.”

Head of naval aviation, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said that currently, the training jet issue is the “number one safety priority” across naval aviation. However, he continued, “Right now we don’t have the smoking gun.”

Although the boycott is garnering attention, some pilots still feel the unsafe conditions are being ignored, especially by Rear Adm. Dell D. Bull, chief of naval air training.

“He is telling us to just ‘shut up and color,’” one pilot reported. “Most pilots think [Bull] is just dragging his feet and doesn’t want to look bad.”

Another discouraged pilot said, “It’s the admirals … the people that have the power to fix it that aren’t doing a damn thing.”

One sign of hope for the instructor pilots is that among them is Marine 1st Lt. Michael Pence, who is the son of Vice President Mike Pence – a factor that could possibly add pressure on the Pentagon to resolve the issue.

On April 5, Bull and Shoemaker plan to speak to instructor pilots in Meridian about the protest and the Navy’s next steps.

See the full report below:

H/T: Fox News

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