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Hypoxia scare causes EA-18G to make emergency landing

A US Navy student electronic warfare officer felt potential symptoms of hypoxia during a training flight on a Boeing EA-18G on 27 June, causing the aircraft to divert to the nearest airport in Washington state and land, a USN spokesman confirms to Flightglobal.

The landing at 6pm highlights the level of sensitivity surrounding the US military aviation community’s concerns about a burst of reports about hypoxia symptoms among flight crew members.

The 27 June incident involved a student EWO assigned to VAQ-129 at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington State. The student felt tightness in their chest and tingling in the extremities, which were recognised as potential symptoms of hypoxia, a spokesman for the Navy physiological episodes action team says.

The pilot of the EA-18G responded by descending below 10,000ft, then performing an emergency landing at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The student was transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

“It was to err on the side of caution,” the spokesman say.

USN officials are continuing to investigate the incident to determine if the student EWO had a confirmed case of hypoxia, and, if so, what caused it.

The emergency landing occurred hours after Mitsubishi Aircraft hosted a media event at the same airport, which was attended by a FlightGlobal journalist. During the event, three EA-18Gs from Whidbey Island landed at the central Washington airport, but did not appear to be the same aircraft involved in the hypoxia case.

On 29 January, an EA-18G assigned to the VX-9 squadron at Whidbey Island experienced an environmental control system failure, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing in a freezing cockpit with an iced canopy, according to a report by Defense News.

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