NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– The Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges program office’s (PMA-205) Naval Aviation Survival Training Program (NASTP) installed the eighth and final hypoxia trainer at the Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) located at Whidbey Island, Wash., this month.
The NASTP installed the Normobaric Hypoxia Trainer (NHT) in eight locations across the Naval Aviation Enterprise, providing fixed-wing, non-ejection seat aircrew the opportunity to experience hypoxia in a safe and technologically relevant environment.
“The staff of ASTC, Whidbey Island, are excited to deliver dynamic hypoxia training to our aviators and aircrew using the NHT. Being able to incorporate specificity of training to our students and accommodating their aircraft platform equipment will increase the fleet relevance and quality of training we’re able to provide,” said Lt. Cmdr. Miles A. Erwin, ASTC director at Whidbey Island. “The fleet personnel aware of the NHT but who haven’t yet experienced the trainer is eager to experience the updated training and appreciate the advancements to their survival training.”
The Navy previously used low-pressure chambers for hypoxia awareness, but those chambers were considered high risk to aircrew’s long-term health.
“The chambers put extreme stress on the body and caused some aviators to experience ruptured sinuses, forcing them to be grounded for months,” said Cmdr. Andrew Hayes, PMA-205 NASTP team lead. “Barotrauma, decompression sickness and ruptured eardrums along with structural integrity issues became the catalyst to decommission our chambers.”
The NHT allows students to experience the symptoms of hypoxia, but not through the use of low pressure. The pressure they experience is equal to that at sea level. The trainer uses a nitrogen generation system that removes a portion of the oxygen from ambient air and then filters the nitrogen-enriched air that is delivered to the training enclosure, causing the aircrew to experience hypoxia without subjecting them to dangerous low pressure.
“The NASTP team pulled together and fielded this groundbreaking training device in just two years,” said Capt. Lisa Sullivan, PMA-205 program manager. “With the installation of the last NHT at Whidbey Island, there are now eight NHT devices installed at ASTCs across the United States. The NHT is government designed, built, and installed and is revolutionizing how we safely train aircrew.”