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A accumulation of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) engineers intend to break a adverse and alarming botheration that has been accomplished by pilots who fly all variants of the F/A-18 Hornet airframe: decompression sickness, or Physiological Contest (PE).

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During a PE, a pilot may acquaintance confusion, blackout or alike the accident of alertness due to hypoxia, or the abridgement of an able accumulation of oxygen. So far, added than 500 PEs including decompression affection and hypoxia accept been documented.

Kyle Zust, F/A-18 Environmental Ascendancy Systems (ECS) Berth Burden Analysis Lab (CPTL) Project Lead, suspects that problems with the airframes berth pressurization arrangement may be accidental to PE events.

“The disability of the berth to advance able burden has been recorded in F/A-18 A-F and EA-18G aircraft. Improper berth burden on the arena and during flight can aftereffect in a PE,” Zust said. “We accept accurate occurrences during the activity aeon of this aircraft that accept declared issues with berth pressure. About six years ago, the F/A-18 and EA-18G Fleet Support Aggregation (FST) created a PE tracking arrangement which has accustomed us to accumulate advice afterward a PE to investigate the occurrences.”

To analysis and verify berth burden anomalies, Zust and NAVAIR advance architect Sean Alexander formed an engineering aggregation in September 2016 and advised and congenital a testing class in Buildings 486 and 487 at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).

“Following a PE, we accept removed ECS berth apparatus and beatific them for analysis and accept begin no `smoking gun’. The purpose of the CPTL is to authorize arrangement akin analysis adequacy that will accredit us to actuate basis cause(s) and antidotal action(s) to berth burden accompanying PEs. The CPTL and assorted added efforts is a artefact of the PE tracking system,” Zust said.

Working in affiliation with the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office and aboriginal accessories architect (OEM) Boeing through the NAVAIR F/A-18 Physiological Basis Account Antidotal Activity Aggregation (RCCA), the CPTL was advised in abatement of 2016, and congenital in the bounce of 2017 by FST engineers. The adeptness was absolutely operational on Aug.18, 2017.

NAVAIR ECS annex administrator Dan Cummins said that the RCCA is breach into two primary groups: one that focuses on anecdotic the basis cause(s) of the F/A-18 PEs, and the added accumulation on implementing solutions into F/A-18 aircraft.

“RCCA is a analytic archetypal that has been acclimated by Boeing to break circuitous aerospace issues on added platforms,” he said. “The RCCA aggregation is a government-private industry affiliation that has representation from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, In-Service Engineering (FST), F/A-18 Aircraft Certification Engineers (ACE), PMA 265 Engineering Class Desk, as able-bodied as aeromedical experts.”

“The aggregation has amorphous testing on what we alarm `ECS Characterization Testing’. This testing gives us a abstinent baseline on how the ECS arrangement performs in the F/A-18 aircraft. Follow-on testing will accommodate accountability testing and accomplishment testing of solutions,” Cummins said.

The analysis lab is comprised of three above components: A 3,400 cubic anxiety per minute capricious acceleration automated pump that generates abrogating pressure, or a vacuum, an accumulator, and the analysis chamber.

Aircraft berth burden apparatus are placed in the alcove and analyzed via a closed-loop cyberbanking ascendancy arrangement and software developed by the NAVAIR team. A closed-loop ascendancy arrangement uses acknowledgment signals to accomplish adjustments to itself.

The analysis alcove is accordant with all distinct and bifold bench F/A-18 variants and has the adeptness to simulate an aircraft berth ambiance from 0 to 50,000 feet, and ascend ante beyond 50,000 anxiety per minute.

“Much of the arrangement testing actuality done in the CPTL cannot cautiously or about be done in a manned aircraft,” Cummins noted.

At a amount of about $1.8 million, the lab is the alone one of its affectionate that can analysis berth burden apparatus on a arrangement level. And with added than 150 hours of testing already beneath their belts, the F/A-18 FST has busy admired acumen from the assignment already completed.

“We accept acquired a clearer compassionate of how the F/A-18 berth pressurization apparatus are assuming at the arrangement level,” Cummins said. “We are currently systematically testing flight profiles to bigger accept the arrangement variables that drive the arrangement pressurization overshoots and berth surging. We accept we are branch in the appropriate direction.”

“By creating this lab we will accretion the arrangement akin analysis adequacy that will ensure our aircrew can appear home cautiously to their families, and additionally be able bottomward range,” Zust said.

(Image provided with NAVAIR account release)

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