Breathe in, breathe out
By By Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 22, 2011
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Aircrews at the 48th Fighter Wing are being trained more quickly and efficiently, thanks to a new piece of equipment.
The Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device/Hypoxia Familiarization Trainer will be used by aircrew members to simulate the effects of oxygen levels ranging from ground to 34,000 feet.
"The trainer is expected to save the 48th FW more than $100,000 a year," said Tech Sgt. Virginia McDonough, 48th Aerospace Medicine Squadron aerospace and operational physiology team NCO in charge. "Having the ROBD/HFT here will eliminate the need to send aircrew members to temporary duty locations for training."
Rather than receiving training elsewhere, members now go through a four-hour academic course followed by a 30-minute hands-on portion here on base.
"During the course, we go through the different effects and countermeasures to take while we're on and off the ground, from sleep to dieting to experiencing altitude flying," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Taylor, 494th Fighter Squadron director of operations.
After the academics, members move to the trainer.
"One of the main advantages of this system is that it eliminates the risk of injury from what could possibly occur in the [altitude] chamber," said McDonough.
The altitude chamber reduces ambient pressure instead of altering gas mixtures as accomplished by the trainer. Trainees risked injuries such as ear and sinus problems and decompression sickness.
"Unlike the altitude chamber, [the trainer] allows pilots to actually fly the [simulated] aircraft so we can get a better feel of when we'll reach that "hypoxic" state, or loss of oxygen, and how to react," said Taylor.
Allowing aircrew members to be exposed to the change of oxygen levels while flying in the trainer, makes it a more realistic experience to what they would encounter in real world situations, said McDonough.
With fewer risks and more benefits, the trainer will eventually replace the altitude chamber for aircrew members needing to refresh their training.