Physiology experts were on hand at the annual Tailhook Association Convention Sept. 5-7 providing a demonstration of the newest hypoxia awareness training device for naval aviation, the On-Demand Hypoxia Trainer (ODHT).
Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply and can adversely affect aircrew if they are not properly trained to recognize the symptoms of air hunger.
All naval aviators and aircrew must complete refresher physiology training at least every two years and must familiarize themselves with potential hazards in flight including decreased levels of oxygen.
“The ODHT is really great because it reduces oxygen levels and gives the user the feeling of difficulty breathing,” said James Netherland, an electrical engineer for the new system that helps train aircrew.
Lt. Chris Gilg, a naval aerospace physiologist at the Aircrew Survival Training Center at Naval Air Station Pensacola, said the ODHT changes the game when it comes to recognizing hypoxia hazards while in flight.
“We expect aircraft to perform in a certain way,” said Gilg. “When it doesn’t, however, there is a chance that hypoxia can set in; we can train aircrew to be able to recognize the symptoms in themselves and others.”
At Tailhook, attendees volunteered to breathe through a mask that delivers reduced oxygen concentrations like those they would expect to experience at altitude, and then they could provide feedback that designers will consider in the continued development of the ODHT.
“Bringing the system to Tailhook, we get to network with the aviators and to allow them to test this new device,” said Gilg. “It’s important for them to see there is work being done to make the training more realistic, with the on-demand system here.
“We’ve also been training students with it and based on the reliability it’s shown thus far, and the feedback that we’ve gotten, this system is what it actually feels like to breathe in the aircraft,” he continued.
Currently, the ODHT is in the testing phase. Gilg said the Navy is hoping to see it fully implemented in 2021.
The Tailhook Association is an independent, fraternal, nonprofit organization internationally recognized as the premier supporter of the aircraft carrier and other sea-based aviation.