AFRL and AFLCMC stand up facility to investigate in-flight oxygen issues

20 January 2021 (Last Updated January 20th, 2021 15:06)

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) have partnered to stand up a facility to investigate in-flight oxygen issues.

AFRL and AFLCMC stand up facility to investigate in-flight oxygen issues
The AFRL and the AFLCMC partnered to create the Life Support Systems Scientific Test, Analysis, and Qualification Laboratory to investigate mission-critical in-flight oxygen issues. Credit: US Air Force.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) have partnered to stand up a facility to investigate in-flight oxygen issues.

Named ‘Life Support Systems Scientific Test, Analysis, and Qualification Laboratory’, the new facility is completely accommodated within AFLCMC.

The new laboratory will majorly focus on the test and validation of current and next-generation systems.

It will also investigate the root causes of oxygen-related ‘unexplained physiological events’.

The laboratory comprises three test chambers to simulate an aircraft’s interior and exterior under ‘ambient’ temperature and humidity conditions.

AFRL OBOGS Test and Validation Laboratory programme manager Brian Lukey said: “This new laboratory will help both AFLCMC and AFRL keep airmen healthy and flying, avoid the loss of the world’s most technologically advanced aircraft, and to accomplish high-tempo, world-relevant missions.

“Together, these two world-class organisations form a team with expertise spanning basic research to fielding modern aircraft.”

During recent years, some airforce pilots have been experiencing physiological issues such as shortness of breath, confusion, and wheezing during flight.

These ‘hypoxia-like symptoms’ have threatened airmen, as well as aircraft, and resulted in the grounding of assets.

The possible cause of the problem was identified as On-Board Oxygen Generation Systems (OBOGS).

OBOGS Research and Development Team lead George Miller said: “We set up our one-of-a-kind OBOGS research, development, test, and evaluation laboratory here in the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing starting in 2014 to investigate the cause for pilot physiological events, conduct OBOGS research, and guide developers in creating the best future systems for our airmen.

“In the meantime, we began receiving requests from AFLCMC to evaluate aircraft incident OBOGS and life support equipment using our unique test capabilities to determine if they were a factor in the physiological events. We were glad to assist the aircraft program offices in their investigations.”