More than 100 U.S. Navy aviator instructors have refused to fly their aircraft over safety concerns, a decision that has even affected Vice President Mike Pence’s son, a Marine officer and student pilot.
Clip via Fox News Channel
At issue are the aircrafts’ on-board system providing oxygen to the pilots, which instructors say is emitting poisonous gas to those breathing it.
The boycott began late last week and has grounded hundreds of instructors and student pilots. Among the students affected is Marine 1st Lt. Michael Pence, son of the vice president.
“The pilots don’t feel safe flying this aircraft,” one instructor pilot told Fox News.
The oxygen contamination issue is the “number one safety priority” facing Naval aviation at the moment, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of naval aviation, told Fox News.
The interruption in Pence’s training undoubtedly adds to the urgency, but so far, the glitch’s cause hasn’t been tracked down.
“Right now we don’t have the smoking gun,” Shoemaker told Fox News.
Although the boycott is barely a week old, the problem began cropping up years ago. Fox News reported:
n the last five years, physiological episodes, caused in part by problems with the oxygen system, have nearly quadrupled on the T-45 training jet, according to Capitol Hill testimony last week by senior naval aviators.
The Navy is now looking at grounding the entire fleet of T-45s for the next few days, according to multiple pilots.
Since its first appearance, incidents of “histotoxic hypoxia,” in which the contaminate disorient the pilots have “skyrocketed.”
“It can happen without warning,” one pilot said. “The system doesn’t detect contaminants.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry expressed outrage over the situation.
“There is no question that there are problems that are being covered up,” the Texas Republican said. “I am very concerned about the issue. It’s been getting worse over time and if you look at the statistics, the older airplanes are having bigger problems than newer airplanes.”
After the Fox News exclusive report, folks on social media also expressed anger and blamed the previous administration’s massive defense spending cuts.
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Vietnam-era Navy pilot Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement that the Navy “must address these safety concerns swiftly and decisively.”
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