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US lawmakers suggests legislation could arise over pilot physiological issues

18 June 2017

Key Points

  • Key US lawmakers suggest legislation could be produced over DoD pilots experiencing physiological symptoms
  • The US Air Force and Navy are struggling to determine root causes

A pair of key US lawmakers suggested legislation could be produced over the US Navy and Air Force's inability to determine root causes of physiological effects that pilots have experienced in certain aircraft, including the pictured F-35A. (Lockheed Martin)A pair of key US lawmakers suggested legislation could be produced over the US Navy and Air Force's inability to determine root causes of physiological effects that pilots have experienced in certain aircraft, including the pictured F-35A. (Lockheed Martin)

A pair of key US lawmakers suggested that legislation could be produced over the challenges the US Navy (USN) and US Air Force (USAF) are facing determining the cause of physiological issues in pilots.

"I don't know if it will be me, but I'm willing to bet somebody will," Jim Bridenstine, representative from Oklahoma and a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), told Jane's on 16 June.

Another key lawmaker also suggested legislation could arise. John McCain, Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman, said in a 16 June statement that he looks forward to reviewing the results of the investigations into these incidents, as well as recommendations for remedial measures. SASC, McCain said, will continue to exercise vigorous oversight of this issue and, if warranted, address it in the Senate's version of the defence authorisation bill.

Lawmakers will start "marking up", or generating legislation to be proposed as part of the defence authorisation bill the week of 19 June. The USAF and USN are both dealing with events where pilots experienced physiological symptoms similar to hypoxia, which is insufficient oxygen to the brain. The USN is experiencing oxygen system issues with its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18 Growlers, and T-45 Goshawk trainer aircraft while the USAF is experiencing oxygen system issues in some of its F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) conventional variant aircraft.

The USAF's F-35As stationed at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona have been out of commission since 9 June due to a series of hypoxia-like incidents in pilots. The USAF said late 15 June that it has identified fairly definitive return-to-flight criteria and that it will assess it throughout the weekend.

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