Kadena altitude chamber conducts final operations
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron's aerospace and operational physiology flight altitude chamber recently conducted its final operations.
"We're shutting down the chamber because we are transitioning from the altitude chamber to our reduced oxygen breathing device, which we're going to start using in July," said Master Sgt. Eric Kerr, 18th AMDS flight chief. "Because (the Air Force) is reducing the footprint of personnel, we can operate more cost efficiently (with this system), and there is no need to put the students at an increased risk of decompression sickness or sinus issues."
This doesn't mean flyers will not be able to receive their required chamber qualification. Pilots and aircrew required to fly, due to the nature of their job, will receive initial altitude chamber training in the U.S.
The initial or original training stays current for up to five years, and once the flight qualification is no longer current, this new system will support refresher training.
"The ROBD simulates hypoxia, which is what you'd get at 25,000 feet (in altitude), so we'll be able to simulate that with the ROBD rather than exposing them to altitude," Kerr said.
The ROBD also offers a safety component the chamber didn't originally have.
"Our goal is still hypoxia familiarization but we can do it by changing gas percentage instead of pressure," said Maj. Timothy Stout, 18th AMDS aerospace and operational physiology flight commander. "We eliminate the risk to pressure change, evolved gas (and other effects)."
With the ROBD, only the ability to initially train individuals will be lost.
"It won't affect any of our current fliers or current jumpers because those individuals have had initial training," Stout said. "We'll be able to provide refresher training, and the only thing we'll not be able to do is initial aircrew training simply because the requirement remains to go through a hypobaric altitude chamber experience the first time."
With this requirement, individuals will be trained prior to departing the U.S. This will also save money due to manning.
"We can save a lot of taxpayer money on manning and devices just by making sure that before someone departs the states they are current (on training), or they redo their currency before they depart, because they will be current for five years," Stout said.