What happens when a Gripen pilot reaches high altitude and the cabin pressure drops all of a sudden? It can actually have fatal consequences, and therefore it is very important to have systems in place that detect such scenarios in advance and take measures to protect the pilot.
Recently, as a part of Gripen E testing, a number of tests were conducted to verify these systems. Prototype 39-9 onwards, Gripen E has several new systems installed, including an On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) and anti-g system.
Two different pressure chambers were used to conduct these tests; one simulated the cabin in the aircraft and the other simulated a non-pressurized space (device space), where OBOGS was mounted. A test doll with a respiratory simulator was used at first to conduct a few tests. This was followed by a test pilot stepping in to do corresponding tests and evaluate the functioning of these systems.
The tests were further enhanced by usage of explosive decompression, simulating the sudden drop in cabin pressure at high altitudes. Low pressure like this could happen in case of an explosion or loss of the aircraft hood. If this happens, the system will quickly detect it, and also take the necessary steps to protect the pilot.
"The focus was to verify that the system gave the correct pressure to the oxygen mask and G-suit depending on the actual altitude. In addition, it was checked that the oxygen level that the system generates for the pilot is in line with what is required, "says John Färnstrand, flight test engineer, Saab Aeronautics.
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