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NEWS | July 29, 2021

435th FTS pilots test new wearable technology

By Airman 1st Class Tyler McQuiston 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 12th Flying Training Wing innovation office at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph recently began testing new wearable technology on eight voluntary 435th Fighter Training Squadron pilots. The technology's purpose is to help track, manage and acquire additional data for a pilot’s operational risk management, or ORM, process.

“Our goal is to reduce risks and increase safety through an improved ORM process,” said Capt. Nathan Raymond, 435th FTS instructor pilot. “We want to foster and create better habits for improved health and human performance.”

Pilots were issued a Garmin smartwatch, a 21-ounce Hidrate Spark smart connected water bottle, and an Oura personal health tracking ring. Each piece of gear pairs directly with a mobile app to track the user’s daily hydration, steps, heart rate, exercise patterns, sleep cycle, stress level and overall readiness.

Pilots were asked to wear the watch throughout the day and the ring overnight to get consistent data throughout the test, Raymond said.

The smartwatch has an altitude reader that helps pilots monitor how high or low they are flying, and pilots can set it to flash whenever they go over 10,000 feet.

“Using the (smartwatch) is a great tracker for my physical fitness,” said Lt. Col. John Matchett, 435th FTS commander. “It’s also useful as a canopy pressurization indicator during a flight as a cheaper solution than replacing hardware in an aircraft.”

Before every flight pilots are required to fill out an ORM form, which helps pilots track different conditions throughout a flight such as bad weather, the type of flight formation, if a student pilot is flying solo, or if they are flying at a low altitude.

After going through the checklist, pilots get a composite number for each condition they selected in the ORM form and the higher the number, the more at risk the pilot is. Typically, the composite number remains the same with each flight, however there are two items that are more subjective when filling out the ORM, such as if the pilot is sleep deprived or having any personal factors.

“This technology is a must-have as a T-38 instructor pilot for safety and wellness,” said Maj. Luke Seaman, 435th FTS instructor pilot.

Giving pilots the ability to track how well they slept, and their overall readiness can improve the way they measure if they are sleep deprived or dealing with more personal factors than usual. Pilots have also noticed that following a hydration schedule and drinking the right amount of water each day has improved their G-strain endurance.

“I have been flying for more than 12 years and what I am really interested in is helping the younger pilots who don’t have as much experience,” Matchett said. “We are trying to figure out if this technology will improve their decision making process and become better fighter pilots.”