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Jet ejection seat, enhanced respiratory system monitoring in defense bill

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Congress is on the verge of passing legislation that would require greater oversight of military jet ejection seats and pilot breathing systems, in hopes of preventing further accidents and related deaths.

The final version of the 2022 Fiscal Defense Policy Bill, which passed the House on December 8 and awaits a Senate vote as early as this week, would require the Air Force and Navy to report to lawmakers on the state of their ejection seats.

Congress wants to know how many seats are installed in each active flight base and how many have a waiver that allows them to be used, despite the need for repairs or spare parts. He also calls for more transparency about who signed each waiver and when.

Reports are due twice a year from February 1, 2022 at the latest.

This provision follows the death of 1st Lt. David Schmitz, a 32-year-old pilot, who was killed in 2020 in an F-16 crash when his ejection seat malfunctioned during a landing that went wrong. Schmitz’s plane struck the ground while still in the cockpit; He died instantly.

This seat had not been repaired for three years due to a shortage of spare parts. Military.com reported in June that the Air Force delayed resolving the issue despite knowing it could turn fatal.

The Air Force makes extensive use of Collins Aerospace’s ACES II ejection seats in most of its fighter and bomber fleets. The Navy has another version, the common NACES ejection seat, manufactured by Martin-Baker.

Elsewhere in the bill, the House and Senate armed forces committees are pushing the Pentagon to consider and possibly pass NASA’s recommendations on how to repair the respiratory system of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a system on-board oxygen generator built by Honeywell.

Defense News reported in August that F-35 pilots had reported more than 40 physiological episodes, including symptoms of hypoxia, since Fiscal 2017. Most of them occurred in the F-35A. the Air Force.

NASA found that the respiratory system provides less oxygen than pilots need, causing “acute and chronic health problems that have caused impairment for days, weeks, months or longer.”

The space agency suggests that the military measures the respiratory parameters of the F-35 in flight, examines the pilot’s breathing capacity before and after the flight, examines whether certain policies and procedures may be contributing to the problem, and regularly collects more reports from the pilots. .

Rachel Cohen joined the Air Force Times as a senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has been featured in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), The Washington Post and others. .