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News | Jan. 17, 2018

AOP breathes life into F-22 mission

By Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

An aircraft is vital to the Air Force’s mission but it can’t do much without a pilot. The pilot is the brain of the aircraft and just like the human body, if the brain isn’t functioning correctly the body can’t work properly.

The brain needs oxygen to do its job properly and while at all altitudes the air stays relatively the same being made up of 21 percent Oxygen, 78 percent Nitrogen, .93 percent Argon and 1% other minor gases, it’s the decrees in pressure that can affect the pilot.

As the altitude increases the pressure decreases lowering the amount of oxygen that is forced into a person’s lungs. When the heart and/or lungs can’t provide the blood with the proper amount of oxygen, the brain and other organs may suffer from hypoxia, and this can be fatal if not corrected.

It’s the job of 1st Operations Group aerospace and operational physiology to train the pilots to understand and recognize the symptoms they may receive while becoming hypoxic.

The 1st OG AOP uses the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device to simulate high altitude exposure environments to induce those symptoms so that the individuals practice recognizing the symptoms.

Some symptoms may include tingling in extremities, affected vision, nausea, light headedness, euphoria and/or belligerency. 

“Our training is important, definitely when it comes to safety because when the pilots go up in altitude they’ll get different symptoms when they get lack of oxygen and we want to make sure they recognize them,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Crump, 1st OG AOP technician. “If individuals who did not get this training went up in altitude they may not recognize what hypoxia was or recognize their symptoms, they could potentially pass out and crash the aircraft.”

While using the ROBD, the instructor continuously speaks with the individual to keep them busy, all while monitoring their vitals and slowly reducing his oxygen intake. As the individual recognizes their symptoms, they let the instructor know and the instructors then pump 100 percent oxygen through the mask.

According to Crump, this in pilot terms is called “gang loading” the regulator. Making sure that the regulator is ON, Oxygen is at 100 percent and the pressure (air flow) is on Emergency.

Vision is usually the first thing to be affected when going hypoxic. Due to certain colors being harder to see at night the instructor will turn down the lights and give the person a card with alternating colors to test their vision while undergoing hypoxia, said Crump.

The instructor will then give the individual 100 percent oxygen, bringing back all color vividness showing the pilot how much their vision was affected.

 “At any moment we could be called to go do something, whether that is the protection of the United States or going overseas to fight,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Andy, 149th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot.

As the pilots are flying and acting as the brain for their aircrafts, AOP is in the background making sure the pilots stay sharp, recognizing their symptoms and staying ready for whenever they may be called to fight.

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