Naval instructor pilots are refusing to fly after a problem with their training jet, the T-45, hasn’t been fixed.
That’s according to a report by Fox News, which said the Coronado-based commander of naval aviation has acknowledged the problem.
“Right now, we don’t have the smoking gun,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker told Fox News.
“We’re doing a lot of things to assess the system — the onboard oxygen-generating system — as well as to try to understand what might be getting into the pilot breathing air.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s son, a Corps lieutenant, is reportedly one of the pilots in training now.
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In a statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Coronado aviation command said roughly 40 percent of flights were canceled on Friday in T-45 training commands in Meridian, Mississippi, Pensacola, Florida, and Kingsville, Texas.
The reason: operational risk management concerns voiced by the instructor pilots, said Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, spokeswoman for the Naval command.
“We take the concerns of our aircrew seriously and have directed a two-day safety pause for the T-45 community to allow time for naval aviation leadership to engage with the pilots, hear their concerns and discuss the risk mitigations, as well as the efforts that are ongoing to correct this issue,” Groeneveld said.
Groeneveld said the pause is being conducted today and tomorrow.
The issue is possible contamination of the cockpit oxygen supply, which can lead to a pilot being incapacitated.
Groeneveld called it a complex problem with “multiple interrelated potential causal factors.”
The root cause remains unidentified, she said, adding, “but engineers are working diligently to find a solution” without regard to manpower or cost constraints.
The T-45 is used to train future and Corps carrier and strike jet pilots.
The Boeing aircraft made its first flight in 1988 and was considered operational in 1991, according to its profile. Each plane costs $17.2 million.
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