According to a Fox News report released Tuesday, more than 100 U.S. Navy instructor pilots are currently refusing to fly in protest of high-ranking officials failing to address what multiple pilots are calling an urgent problem with the training jets’ oxygen system. The strike began late last week, affecting hundreds of training flights.
Senior naval aviators testified at Capitol Hill last week that the number of physiological episodes on T-45 training jets have almost quadrupled over the last five years. This rise is due in part by oxygen system problems. The medical term used for the physiological episodes is “histotoxic hypoxia.”
Multiple pilots told Fox News that the Navy is working to ground the entire fleet of T-45s for the next few weeks.
“The pilots don’t feel safe flying this aircraft,” one instructor told Fox News.
According to head of aviation Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, the training jet issue is the “number one safety priority” across naval aviation at the moment.
“Right now we don’t have the smoking gun,” he said.
“There is no question that there are problems that are being covered up,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry 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.”
In a statement, Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the Navy “must address these safety concerns swiftly and decisively.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s son, Marine 1st Lt. Michael Pence, happens to be one of the students affected by the boycott.