Medical Official Explains F-22 Pilot-Protection Efforts
By Amaani Lyle
May 16, 2012 - Air Force officials have instituted
measures designed to protect its pilots, ensure mission
completion and assess the possible physiological effects
of flying the F-22 Raptor, the command surgeon for Air
Combat Command said on Wednesday.
"The health and safety of our pilots all of our pilots
is the utmost priority," said Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Daniel O.
Wyman. "Our operational flight surgeons and medical
staff interact with our pilots on a daily basis, and
mission number one is their health and safety."
Before resuming F-22 flights in September 2011 after a
safety stand-down, Wyman said, officials collected
baseline blood samples and pulmonary function tests from
"We had every pilot go through retraining with the reduced
oxygen breathing device so that they would experience and know
their own specific 'hypoxia symptoms,'" he said, adding that the
command also incorporated a pilot pulse oximeter and the C2A1
filter as protective measures.
Designed and certified by the Defense Department for the
chemical warfare environment, Wyman said, the C2A1 filter
canister was incorporated into the pilot's life support system
to filter any potential contaminants from the air they breathed.
The filter has been tested against military and National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health protocols and found
to be effective against a number of different chemical warfare
and industrial chemicals.
"It was cleared for flight use by the U.S. Air Force program
office and has been used by the military for over a decade in
the ground crew and aircrew ensembles," he added.
Once flying resumed, Wyman said, a black dust was found in some
of the breathing hoses near the C2A1 filter.
Filter test results indicated the amount of activated carbon dust
liberated during normal use was well below the industrial hygiene
standard levels set by government agencies, the command surgeon said.
Thirty pilot throat swab samples examined by electron microscope also
indicated no evidence of activated carbon, he added.
Still, some Raptor pilots have reported suffering persistent coughing,
which Wyman maintained may stem from high concentrations of oxygen while
undergoing spiked G-forces during maneuvering. These conditions, he
said, may result in adsorption of the oxygen adhesion of a small layer
of molecules and subsequent microcollapse of some of the small air sacs
in the lungs.
Air Combat Command officials have implemented a
"recognize-confirm-recover" approach to fortify safety measures, Wyman
said. In addition to training that helps ensure pilots can more readily
recognize hypoxia or hypoxia-like symptoms, fliers can also pull an
emergency oxygen ring, then descend to an altitude at which hypoxia
would not occur, he said.
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