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New equipment gives Airmen time to breathe

Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device

9th Physiological Support Squadron personnel monitor a pilot's vitals and cognitive abilities as he flies a simulated mission using the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device at Beale Air Force Base, California, July 21, 2017. The ROBD allows for a more efficient and safer way for pilots to train in simulated environments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Parsons)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- After a pilot completes their Initial Aerospace Physiology Training they occasionally go through a refresher course to maintain their flying status. In order to complete the course aircrew work with the 9th Physiological Support Squadron for a variety of reasons, including a hypoxia demonstration.

“After someone completes the academics portion of their training they have to do a hypoxia demonstration,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Flecker, the 9th PSPTS support flight chief. “Hypoxia is a state of oxygen deficiency. When a person goes up in attitude and breathes less oxygen they become susceptible to cognition errors, situational awareness errors, loss of coordination, and visual impairment.”

Hypoxia poses a serious threat to pilots and up until recently, exposing pilots to the conditions which cause it required 9th PSPTS Airmen to spend a lot of time and manpower completing hypoxia demonstrations. However, with the acquisition of the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device it now only takes two individuals versus the six Airmen it used to take.

“It saves us a lot of manpower and time,” said Airman 1st Class Mariah Rosenberg, a 9th PSPTS aerospace physiologist technician. “A hyperbaric chamber flight takes us about an hour and a half to do the entire thing and with the ROBD it takes us about 30 minutes.”

According to Rosenberg, pilots prefer using the ROBD instead of the hyperbaric chamber because they aren’t required to wear the full pressure suit and are able to spend more time on the mission as opposed to training.

In addition to the time saved, demonstrating hypoxia with the ROBD is safer for aircrew going through the training.

“The ROBD demonstrates hypoxia without exposing aircrew to altitude threats,” said Flecker. “It takes oxygen, nitrogen, and compressed air and mixes them up to different percentage levels a person would be exposed to at various altitudes.”

Since students aren't exposed to high altitudes they aren’t restricted from flying like they used to be after training.

“The ROBD is freeing up our pilots because they aren’t restricted from flying,” said Flecker. “They can actually fly a mission the same day.”

All the time being saved by aircrew and 9th PSPTS Airmen goes a long way in allowing them to focus on other aspects of the mission. The aircrew can get back to flying sorties and providing high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and the Airmen can focus on ensuring the equipment they need to do so is working properly.

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