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Air Platforms

USAF cites improperly functioning oxygen generation system for T-6 physiological issues

07 February 2018

Key Points

  • The USAF believes a malfunctioning oxygen system is to blame for T-6 physiological issues
  • The service grounded its trainer aircraft in response and an officer said this impacts pilot training

The US Air Force (USAF) believes a malfunctioning oxygen generation system and its lack of proper maintenance in Beechcraft T-6 Texan II basic turboprop trainers are to blame for pilots suffering physiological issues in the aircraft.

USAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Lieutenant General Mark Nowland told the House Armed Services (HASC) tactical air and land forces subcommittee on 6 February that the service never trained its technicians on how to properly maintain the T-6’s On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS). Lt Gen Nowland added that the service believes, but is not sure, that the system needs to be repaired.

The USAF believes a malfunctioning oxygen supply system may be to blame for pilots reporting physiological issues in its T-6 trainer aircraft. (US Air Force)The USAF believes a malfunctioning oxygen supply system may be to blame for pilots reporting physiological issues in its T-6 trainer aircraft. (US Air Force)

The USAF on 1 February began an operational pause of the T-6 that is still ongoing. The service is examining the root cause of unexplained physiological events that took place at three air force bases in the span of one week the last week of January: Columbus AFB, Mississippi; Vance AFB, Oklahoma; and Sheppard AFB, Texas.

Lt Gen Nowland said the service loses 700 sorties a day with the T-6 grounding and that this will impact pilot training. A spokesperson with the USAF’s Air Education and Training Command (AETC) said the grounding was limited to the command and affects its 444 aircraft.

Lt Gen Nowland, in his prepared statement, said the USAF reported 22 physiological issues in the T-6 since the start of fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) in October, and a total of 55 events since FY 2008. The 55 incidents in the T-6 are second to only the General Dynamics F-16C/D Fighting Falcon multirole fighter, which reported 84 incidents since FY 2008.

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