Air Force grounds F-35s after reports of serious oxygen deprivation

The Air Force has grounded 55 F-35s after several pilots reported serious oxygen deprivation during flights.

Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff released a statement Friday noting that in five cases pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying.” Luckily, a backup oxygen system on the F-35 kicked, which allowed pilots to land without further trouble, Defense One reports.

f-35 raptor formation

U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

The incidents occurred at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, marking the second time Air Force F-35s have been grounded in a year.

According to Graff, the fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base will likely be cleared to fly again Monday.

“Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms,” Graff said in a statement. “Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”

In late March, Bloomberg reported that Navy pilots have suffered bouts of hypoxia because of a loss of cabin pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation. These issues have steadily increased every year since 2010 on all F-18 models, which includes the Super Hornet. Navy officials are still trying to get to the bottom of what they’re referring to as “physiological episodes.”

The Navy has also recently ground its T-45 Goshawk planes after pilots complained of headaches and oxygen deprivation. The problem was so dire that 100 instructor pilots flat-out refused to fly the planes, forcing the Navy to ground all 195 planes in the T-45 fleet.

Air Force F-35s on other bases like Hill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base are still cleared for flying, and next week, a group of F-35s will fly to France for the Paris Air Show. Those F-35s will come from the Hill base.

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