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Yokota enhances flying mission with hypoxia familiarization trainer

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 374th Operations Support Squadron celebrated the activation of a new Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device and Hypoxia Flight Trainer simulator at their aircrew training facility on base, November 22, 2022.

The ROBD training device can simulate the oxygen levels present at any elevation through a flight mask, and is used to help train pilots, aircrew members and paratroopers on hypoxia symptoms they may experience while flying at high altitudes.

“The ROBD will allow flyers stationed at or passing through Yokota Air Base to undergo hypoxia recertification training locally,” said Maj. Joseph Teodoro, 374th OSS airspace physiologist. “Flyers initially train for high altitude flight in a hypobaric chamber, but there are few of them as they are large and expensive to maintain. The ROBD is much smaller, simpler, and cheaper to use, so it’s a big win for the base.”

Hypobaric chambers, more commonly known as altitude chambers, work by sucking out the air from a sealed room and provides the most realistic experience of decompression at high altitudes available on the ground.

The ROBD devices operate by changing the mixture of atmospheric gasses fed to a single breathing mask to reduce the amount of oxygen of a single trainee, allowing instructors to provide individual attention.

“An altitude chamber runs the risk of inducing decompression sickness, but this device eliminates that danger,” said Tech. Sgt. Mark McHugh, 374th OSS airspace physiology technician. “A major aim of this device is to reduce health related incidents, and due to the mechanism being used to induce hypoxia, it allows trainees to recertify in under an hour and safely go back to flying right away.”

The USAF requires all pilots and crew members to recertify on hypoxia training every few years per Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. , because it’s important for flyers to remain familiar with hypoxia’s insidious onset, as signs and symptoms may develop so gradually that they are well established before its recognized.

“We commonly think the dangers of flying is a mechanical failure or an enemy aircraft, but lack of oxygen is a much more common threat and can sneak up on you,” Teodoro said. “Hypoxia doesn’t hurt. If I pinch somebody, they feel it and react to that pain, but losing oxygen can make you feel sleepy, desensitized, or giddy.”

“This trainer helps make our people safer, more efficient and ready to get at the mission,” Teodoro added.