NAVAIR Engineers Honored by AIAA-San Diego

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) engineers were recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) – San Diego section May 10 for their development of the F/A-18/EA-18G Cabin Pressure Test Laboratory (CPTL) last August.

The AIAA, dedicated to the advancement of aeronautics and astronautics, selected the NAVAIR CPTL under the “Outstanding Achievement by an Aerospace Organization” category during its annual awards banquet held in San Diego.

The CPTL was created to identify the root cause(s) and find solutions to physiological events (PE), or decompression sickness pilots have experienced when flying all variants of the F/A-18 Hornet airframe.

PE symptoms may include dizziness, confusion and even loss of consciousness due to hypoxia, or the lack of an adequate supply of oxygen. To date, more than 500 PEs have been documented.

NAVAIR lead engineer Shawn Alexander and Kyle Zust, F/A-18 Environmental Control Systems Fleet Support Team, formed the engineering team in September 2016 that built the laboratory in Buildings 486 and 487 aboard Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).

The lab is comprised of three major components: A 3,400 cubic feet per minute variable speed industrial pump that generates negative pressure, or a vacuum, an accumulator, and the test chamber.

Aircraft cabin pressure components are placed in the chamber and analyzed via a closed-loop electronic control system and software developed by the NAVAIR team. A closed-loop control system uses feedback signals to make adjustments to itself.

The test chamber is compatible with all single and dual seat F/A-18 variants and has the ability to simulate an aircraft cabin environment from 0 to 50,000 feet, and climb rates exceeding 50,000 feet per minute.

At a cost of approximately $1.8 million, the lab is the only one of its kind that can test cabin pressure components on a system level.

Aerospace engineer Nathan Cox operates the pressurization test lab control station while fellow aerospace engineer Duy Nguyen, foreground, monitors the inside of the test chamber.