The head of a high-profile Navy team dedicated to solving the issue of pilot oxygen deprivation in cockpits will leave the team this summer, less than a year after arriving, Navy officials announced Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Sara “Clutch” Joyner started the Navy’s Physiological Episodes Action Team in August, an initiative aimed at identifying and developing solutions to the deadly issue of oxygen supply problems that are plaguing several air frames.

Joyner will head to an assignment as director, J1, for the Joint Staff, according to a Pentagon release.

A spokesman for the action team said Joyner’s replacement has not been named yet, and that she is expected to depart the team sometime this summer.

Speaking at the Tailhook Convention in September, Joyner said she quickly abandoned the hope for any single solution to the oxygen deprivation issue shortly after she began her review, according to a Navy release chronicling the event.

Physiological episodes occur in many air frames, she told the convention, and can arise whenever a person is fed oxygen in a pressurized environment.

Joyner announced in October that the Navy had identified a valve as the possible cause of pressure changes during flight in F/A-18E and F Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growlers.

“We’re not declaring victory, but we are declaring that we found something to fix and we’re fixing it,” she said in the October release.

Joyner also told reporters that issues with the T-45 trainer jet may stem from its small engine not producing sufficient oxygen flow for pilots.

Navy T-45 instructor pilots went on strike last spring over an increase in problems with the cockpit’s oxygen system. Some Air Force F-35s were grounded for nearly two weeks after five pilots reported hypoxia symptoms.

Joyner became the first woman to command a strike fighter squadron in 2010, and the first female to lead a carrier air wing in 2013, according to her official biography.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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