The US Air Force’s (USAF's) 71st Flying Training Wing has grounded its fleet of Beechcraft T-6A Texan II trainer aircraft following a series of physiological events affecting pilots.
The temporary suspension of flight activities was announced by Vance Air Force Base (AFB) in Oklahoma on 20 November following four onboard oxygen events affecting five crew members that have occurred since the beginning of the month. On each occasion, the aircraft was able to return safely to base using their back-up oxygen systems.
“During the operational pause, a systematic programme was put into place to brief instructor pilots and students on the situation and increase their awareness of physiological incidents. Pilots were also briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft,” Vance AFB said on its website, adding, “Flight medicine briefed physiological event symptoms and also the extensive measures that are being taken to analyse data collected from the incidents. Additionally, the 71st Operations Group held an open forum to discuss any concerns pilots may have, given these recent occurrences.”
While Vance AFB also fields the Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk and Northrop T-38 Talon, the grounding order has been applied to the T-6A only. Besides Vance AFB, the T-6A is flown out of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Columbus AFB, Laughlin AFB, and Sheppard AFB. According to US media reports, the USAF has not yet imposed similar restrictions at these locations.
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