The US Navy intends to add a water separator in the T-45's Onboard Oxygen Generation System, or OBOGS among several solutions to the cockpit air problems being experienced by pilots of the trainer aircraft.
The water separator is a component common in high-performance jets but not found in the training aircraft. "Without a water separator in that system," Bill Moran, Vice chief of naval operations was quoted as saying by Navy Times, "We believe that there's a potential for water moisture to get in there and not provide effective, dry air".
The Navy has struggled for months to curb the incidents where pilots report physical symptoms relating to a loss of oxygen inside the cockpit.
Recent efforts to address the problem have included installing redesigned OBOGS in 84 percent of in-service F/A-18s. The Navy fitted hyperbaric chambers aboard the carriers Bush, Vinson and Reagan for immediate treatment of aircrew. And some pilots have been provided watches that measure cabin altitude thresholds.
Moran said there is also a next-generation OBOGS being designed at the same time these modifications are being installed. The next-gen system would be an across-the-board overhaul in all planes, Moran said, and is being designed now in the event that the steps currently put in place fail.
The Navy has investigated hundreds of reports of pilots experiencing physiological episodes. So far, 382 cases have been adjudicated concerning the F/A-18 alone, of which 130 involved some type of possible contamination, 114 involved an environmental systems control failure, 50 involved oxygen system failure, 13 involved a breathing gas failure, 91 involved human factors and 76 were inconclusive, Navy officials said.