Some Corps and pilots say problems with the aging planes they fly create hazardous, potentially deadly working conditions.
According to Fox News correspondent and former Naval aviator Lea Gabrielle, F/A-18 Hornet pilots have complained about failures of the aging jets’ life support systems — such as the On-board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) — which help them breathe during flight.
If the systems fail, it can result in hypoxia for fliers, who can experience dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness because they’re not getting enough oxygen.
According to Gabrielle, who flew Hornets in combat, the told Fox News that “hypoxia, or a loss of oxygen, was a ‘possible contributing factor’ in at least three fatal F/A-18 crashes.”
Corps Air Station Beaufort operates six squadrons of different models of F/A-18s, according to its website.
On Thursday morning, The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette submitted, as requested, questions to the air station about its Hornets, and whether its pilots had lodged safety complaints about the aircraft.
Problems with the life-support system have been found in all models of the Hornet, according to Gabrielle.
A March congressional hearing addressed “physiological episodes” — decreases in pilots’ in-flight performance — in the Hornet, and noted “hypoxia and decompression events” were the two “most likely causes.”
The rate of incidents reported in F/A-18 A through D models between November 2015 and October 2016 almost doubled from the previous 12 months, a report associated with that hearing showed.
Three active-duty Hornet pilots spoke to Fox News on the condition of anonymity and “said they are putting their lives in danger just by getting behind the controls of an aging fighter jet.”
One, according to Gabrielle, said: “When I go flying in combat, what’s more likely to kill me is not getting shot down by enemy fire. It’s a failure in my most basic life support system.”
This story will be updated.
Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston
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