CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- An Aero-Medical Crisis Action Team (A-CAT) has been established to address physiological episodes (PE) affecting the naval aviation community.
The A-CAT consists of flight doctors, physiologists, toxicologists, engineers and specialists from Commander, U.S. Naval Air Forces (CNAF); Commander, Pacific Fleet (CPF); the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED); U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR); Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton (NAMRUD); and U.S. Air Force 711th Human Performance Wing (711 HPW).
"PE is the group-all term for symptoms experienced in the cockpit during flight," said Capt. Roderick Borgie, CNAF deputy force surgeon and prior T-45C Goshawk qualified pilot. "There is a broad spectrum of possibilities that cause symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be caused by issues in cabin pressurization - lack of oxygen, or toxic contaminants - among others."
In 2009, the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) identified a rise in hazard reports. This led the Physiological Episode Team (PET) and CNAF to collect and investigate PE data beginning in 2010. Since then, PET has taken an active role in understanding sources and developing mitigations of PEs for all maritime tactical aircraft - the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and the T-45 Goshawk. All of these aircraft utilize an Onboard Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS), however, other Navy aircraft equipped with OBOGS are not experiencing an elevated rate of PEs related to OBOGS.
"The hardest thing we've had to do is to identify what it is that we need to fix," said Borgie. "The A-CAT is taking a unified front among multiple specialties to take a varied and comprehensive approach toward mitigation strategies."
Borgie added the A-CAT has opened up lines of communication which allows them to operate along the lines of the Chief of Naval Operations' "High Velocity Learning" strategy. He used the example of utilizing and incorporating 711th HPW's 3-5 year research, development and lessons learned to solve similar problems the U.S. Air Force faced with the F-22 Raptor.
In addition, the U.S. Air Force has offered to share their inline air quality sensor previously approved for use in the F-16 Fighting Falcon with the U.S. Navy for use in the T-45.
"Working within the A-CAT, I am really impressed at how communication barriers between military services, nations and even specialties have broken down in the effort to solve these ongoing issues," said Borgie. "Furthermore, the communication between senior leadership and the junior officers, who are in the front lines, have greatly improved. Junior officers, themselves, have incorporated the strategies we have placed and we have openly received their input in return, which has helped direct our efforts."
PEs remain the top safety priority for Naval Aviation. CNAF, BUMED, NAVAIR, Chief of Naval Air Training and U.S. Marine Corps staffs are in alignment with PE mitigation strategies, until we can identify the root cause and determine a solution to the problem.
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