Medical Official Explains F‑22 Pilot-protection Efforts

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2012 — The Air Force has insti­tut­ed mea­sures designed to pro­tect its pilots, ensure mis­sion com­ple­tion and assess the pos­si­ble phys­i­o­log­i­cal effects of fly­ing the F‑22 Rap­tor fight­er air­craft, the com­mand sur­geon for Air Com­bat Com­mand told reporters here today. 

“The health and safe­ty of our pilots — all of our pilots — is the utmost pri­or­i­ty,” Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Daniel O. Wyman said. “Our oper­a­tional flight sur­geons and med­ical staff inter­act with our pilots on a dai­ly basis, and mis­sion No. 1 is their health and safety.” 

Before resum­ing F‑22 flights in Sep­tem­ber 2011 after a safe­ty stand-down, Wyman said, offi­cials col­lect­ed base­line blood sam­ples and pul­monary func­tion tests from every pilot. 

“We had every pilot go through retrain­ing with the reduced oxy­gen breath­ing device so that they would expe­ri­ence and know their own spe­cif­ic ‘hypox­ia symp­toms,’ he said, adding that the com­mand also incor­po­rat­ed a pilot pulse oxime­ter and the C2A1 fil­ter as pro­tec­tive measures. 

Designed and cer­ti­fied by the Defense Depart­ment for the chem­i­cal war­fare envi­ron­ment, Wyman said, the C2A1 fil­ter can­is­ter was incor­po­rat­ed into the pilot’s life sup­port sys­tem to fil­ter any poten­tial con­t­a­m­i­nants from the air they breathed. The fil­ter has been test­ed against mil­i­tary and Nation­al Insti­tute for Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health pro­to­cols, and found to be effec­tive against a num­ber of dif­fer­ent chem­i­cal war­fare and indus­tri­al chem­i­cals, Wyman said. 

“It was cleared for flight use by the U.S. Air Force pro­gram office, and has been used by the mil­i­tary for over a decade in the ground crew and air­crew ensem­bles,” he added. 

For each flight, the pilot would receive a new C2A1 fil­ter con­sist­ing of a high-effi­cien­cy par­tic­u­late, or HEPA, air fil­ter and acti­vat­ed car­bon and char­coal, Wyman said, and they turned in the fil­ters at the end of each flight. 

Once fly­ing resumed, Wyman said, a black dust was found in some of the breath­ing hoses near the C2A1 filter. 

“We ana­lyzed it and found it to be acti­vat­ed car­bon dust … an inert or non­re­ac­tive com­pound that has been used for air and water fil­tra­tion for decades with­out any sig­nif­i­cant evi­dence of harm,” Wyman said. 

Fil­ter test results indi­cat­ed the amount of acti­vat­ed car­bon dust lib­er­at­ed dur­ing nor­mal use was well below the indus­tri­al hygiene stan­dard lev­els set by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, the com­mand sur­geon said. Thir­ty pilot throat swab sam­ples exam­ined by elec­tron micro­scope also indi­cat­ed no evi­dence of acti­vat­ed car­bon, he added. 

Still, some Rap­tor pilots have report­ed suf­fer­ing per­sis­tent cough­ing, which Wyman main­tained may stem from high con­cen­tra­tions of oxy­gen while under­go­ing spiked G‑forces dur­ing maneu­ver­ing. These con­di­tions, he said, may result in adsorp­tion of the oxy­gen — adhe­sion of a small lay­er of mol­e­cules — and sub­se­quent micro­col­lapse of some of the small air sacs in the lungs. 

“Cough­ing is a nat­ur­al phys­i­o­log­ic response that serves to re-inflate the air sacs,” Wyman said, not­ing the con­di­tion typ­i­cal­ly occurs fol­low­ing the flight and is brief in duration. 

Air Com­bat Com­mand has imple­ment­ed a “rec­og­nize-con­firm-recov­er” approach to for­ti­fy safe­ty mea­sures, Wyman said. In addi­tion to train­ing that helps ensure pilots can more read­i­ly rec­og­nize hypox­ia or hypox­ia-like symp­toms, fliers can also pull an emer­gency oxy­gen ring, then descend to an alti­tude at which hypox­ia would not occur, he said. 

Wyman stressed that the com­mand will con­tin­ue to eval­u­ate for oth­er poten­tial con­t­a­m­i­nates or envi­ron­men­tal or air­craft sys­tem fac­tors through the use of sen­sors and oth­er col­lec­tion devices. No root cause has yet been dis­cov­ered, he said. 

“Every step of the way dur­ing the F‑22 return-to-fly, we have worked with our pilots and all of our per­son­nel involved to inspect the fleet, train the force, pro­tect the crews and col­lect and ana­lyze data,” Wyman said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →