By Charles H. Featherstone / Columbia Basin Herald
MOSES LAKE — A Navy EA-18G “Growler” fighter jet made an emergency landing at the Grant County International Airport (GCIA) Thursday morning after one of the crew members complained of a lack of oxygen.
According to communications heard between Grant County’s Multi Agency Communications Center, AMR Ambulance and the Port of Moses Lakes’s fire department, the plane landed after one of the crew reported suffering symptoms of hypoxia.
GCIA Director Rich Mueller said the plane landed safely, the crew was checked out by paramedics and received “a clean bill of health.”
The crew will spend the night in Moses Lake, and will see if the plane can be flown out on Friday, according to a source.
The “Growler” is a derivative of the F/A-18 “Hornet” optimized for electronic warfare.
Over the last decade, the F/A-18 has been plagued with problems in its onboard oxygen generators, designed to supply pilots and crew members with oxygen at high altitudes, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Naval Institute. The deaths of four F/A-18 pilots may also be related to the issue, which has been troubling the Navy’s T-45 “Goshawk” trainer as well.
“The integration of the on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) in the T-45 and FA-18 is inadequate to consistently provide high quality breathing air,” the Naval Institute report said. “The net result is contaminants can enter aircrew breathing air provided by OBOGS and potentially induce hypoxia.”
The oxygen generation systems on many combat jets take air from the engine intakes, purify it, and then remove the nitrogen, delivering 95 percent pure oxygen for fighter pilots and weapons officers to breathe, according to the institute report. Because fighter jets can change altitude rapidly, the nitrogen is removed to prevent pilots from getting the bends, or nitrogen bubbles in their blood, which can happen when pressure changes rapidly.