Hypoxia Epidemic Spreads To T-6
The U.S. Air Force has grounded its fleet of T-6 Texan II turboprops at Vance Air Force Base after a string of four hypoxia-like incidents in two weeks, according to the public affairs office of the 71st Flying Training Wing. This year has been a challenge for the U.S. military’s fighter community on the hypoxia front. The Navy has struggled with “physiological events” on the F/A-18 and T-45, while the Air Force has experienced similar issues with the F-35, which have intermittently grounded portions of all three fleets without determination of a root cause for any of the incidents. Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st FTW, says “Vance Air Force Base is committed to ensuring aircrew safety is paramount, and are conducting a full investigation of the reported cases.”
The 71st FTW press office says, “According to base officials, four instructor pilots and one student pilot assigned to Vance Air Force Base have reported physiological incidents while flying since Nov. 1. In each case, the aircraft's backup oxygen system operated as designed, and the pilot followed the correct procedures, landing the aircraft safely.” The T-6 fleets at the Air Force’s other training bases—Columbus AFB and Laughlin AFB—have not been grounded. The Air Force has cited the rate at which it can get pilots through training as a major factor in the pilot shortage. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson says the shortfall is now up to 10% of the total population of Air Force pilots—2,000 below a target size around 20,000.