News | June 22, 2023

Bad Air Day

By Grampaw Pettibone; Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Following a combat mission, a Hornet pilot set up for a night Case III recovery. After commencing the approach, the pilot began to feel as if he were not keeping up with the aircraft and the approach. As he closed on the ship, he began to realize that he was feeling classic symptoms of hypoxia. Flow to his mask was normal and he did not get any cautions associated with his On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS). The conditions worsened as he commenced his final approach, and eventually became so incapacitating that he initiated an “own waveoff in the groove.”

After the go-around, the pilot activated his emergency seat pan oxygen but failed to secure OBOGS in accordance with NATOPS procedures. After a discussion with his squadron representative on the ship, they decided that he would fly a Mode I (autopilot controlled) approach. Although the subsequent approach and trap were uneventful, the pilot stated that he still had problems with simple tasks in the pattern.

Post flight analysis revealed a failed component in the OBOGS system was allowing contaminated air into the system. By not securing OBOGS when he activated his seat pan oxygen, the pilot continued to breathe contaminated air.