T-45C Jets Under ‘Safety Pause’ Order While Issue Explored
US Navy takes 'unconstrained resources' approach as it explores widely-circulated jet trainer oxygen supply reports and instructors' refusal to fly.
All US Navy T-45C Goshawk training aircraft are presently grounded, amidst reports of oxygen system issues.
This T-45C grounding isn’t permanent, the US Navy says, but it follows first-hand accounts of oxygen systems functioning incorrectly mid-flight.
As per Fox News’ original report, T-45C Goshawk instructors started refusing to fly the aircraft in late March. More than once, the news channel was told, flights had to be cut short because of the oxygen’s quality or there just not being enough of it entering the cockpit.
Cancelled T-45 Flights
“Last Friday [31 March], we had roughly 40% of our flights cancelled in the T-45 training commands in Meridian, Pensacola and Kingsville because of operational risk management concerns voiced by the instructor pilots", Naval Air Forces representative Commander Jeannie Groeneveld explained.
“We take the concerns of our aircrew seriously and have directed a...safety pause for the T-45 community to allow time for Naval Aviation leadership to engage with the pilots, hear their concerns and discuss the risk mitigations as well as the efforts that are ongoing to correct this issue”, she added.
Goshawk ‘Safety Pause’
That ‘safety pause’ is a three-day suspension lasting until 8 April and covering all 197 Goshawks in current US Navy service. Fox News identifies Marine 1st Lieutenant Michael Pence – son of Vice President Mike – among those pilots affected by the Goshawk trainer grounding.
No limit’s been placed on the extent to which the Navy intends to implement corrective measures. In fact, what’s been termed an ‘‘unconstrained resources’ approach to the problem’ is being adopted, it said in a statement, ‘meaning we will not be limited by money or manpower as we diligently work toward solutions.’
Fitted with an arrestor hook and a toughened undercarriage for aircraft carrier operations, the T-45A Goshawk was the US Navy’s version of the British Aerospace Hawk that first flew in 1974. Introduced in 1997, the upgraded T-45C features a digital cockpit amongst its other enhancements.
Fitted with a single Rolls-Royce Adour Mk 851 turbofan engine producing 5,450 pounds of thrust, the T-45C has a top speed of 620 mph. Its range is 1,550 miles and its service ceiling is 50,000 feet. Delivery to the US Navy of the 221st and final T-45 occurred in November 2009. By the following August, Naval Air Training Command had notched-up its one millionth T-45 flying hour.
Oxygen System Concerns
Prior to the grounding, naval air training command arranged for NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) experts to speak to pilots about their oxygen system concerns. These interviews happened over 3-4 April.
“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with type commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort, working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes”, stated Naval Air Forces commander Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker.