NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– The Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges program office (PMA-205) Normobaric Hypoxia Trainer (NHT) team recently designed, delivered, installed, and began support of the NHT at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, the first trainer of its kind eliminating common hypoxia training injuries.
The legacy Low Pressure Chamber trainer used in hypoxia training for pilots and aircrew often caused decompression and barotrauma sickness, the leading causal factors for training injuries in the Naval Aviation Survival Training Program (NASTP). The NHT team, made up of an expert group of research engineers and scientists, looking to mitigate those injuries, developed the NHT concept.
“With the critical and innovative work of our NHT team, we no longer need to worry about barotrauma during cold and sinus season that caused trapped gas pain and injury in our fixed wing non-ejection seat aircrew students at the Aviation Survival Training Centers,” said Cmdr. Andy “Lurch” Hayes, NASTP integrated project team lead. “Inside safety observers no longer need to administer nasal decongestants or perform the invasive Politzer maneuver to inflate the middle ear and sinuses by injecting compressed air up one nostril while the other was closed.”
The NHT design not only eliminates the risk of barotrauma and decompression sickness, but it also can simulate high altitude flight while accommodating up to 12 personnel including six aircrew and two pilot/co-pilot teams monitored by two inside observers. Borrowed from the success of students trained on the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device, the team included flight simulators and controls to add realism and allow aircrew to practice Emergency Procedures (EP) specific to their Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization aircraft. This is the first time in naval aviation history that fixed wing non-ejection seat pilots are able to practice EPs in a state of hypoxia.
“Gone are the days of patty cake in the chamber to monitor hypoxia symptoms. We are fortunate to have the aviation physiology expertise on our team that creatively developed a training system that allows the aircrew to experience hypoxia in a safe environment while conducting aviation operator tasks,” said Capt. Lisa Sullivan, PMA-205 program manager.
PMA-205 provides full life-cycle acquisition of naval aviation platforms, general training systems, training range instrumentation systems, and distributed mission training centers to provide USN and USMC pilots, naval flight officers, aircrew, and maintainers with the training equipment required to provide lethal capability and operational readiness. The program office manages flight simulators, part-task trainers, maintenance trainers, airborne and underwater training range instrumentation, threat systems, and associated curricula to ensure optimum performance for naval aviation.
Responsibilities include execution of naval aviation’s Live, Virtual Constructive training strategy, execution of the Naval Aviation Simulator Master Plan, commonality and interoperability across training systems, procurement and sustainment of training products and services to include equipment overhaul and/or replacement, engineering changes, modernization and technology refreshes, and future technology advancements for training systems and training ranges.