The U.S. defense secretary would be required to brief members of Congress one year from today on the Pentagon's progress in studying adverse health effects of rotorcraft operation on pilots, according to pending military funding legislation.
The House of Representatives Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4909) includes Section 744, which directs the defense secretary to "carry out a long-term study of career helicopter and tiltrotor pilots to assess potential links" between the operation of helicopters and tiltrotors "and acute and chronic medical conditions experienced by such pilots."
The House passed the overall bill May 18 and sent it to the Senate for consideration the following week. The Senate today began debating amendments to its own version of the Fiscal 2017 defense authorization act, which does not include a call for such a vertical-lift health study.
The congressional houses would have to resolve differences between their bills before sending them on to President Obama for his signature and enactment into law.
The language in the House bill was proposed by Tammy Duckworth. The Democrat representing Illinois' 8th Congressional District west of Chicago, she cited Defense Dept. estimates that treatment of acute and chronic injuries among helicopters cost the government more than $250 million a year.
An Iraq war veteran, Duckworth in 2004 lost her legs and partial use of her right arm when the Sikorsky UH-60 she was piloting as a deployed member of the Illinois Army National Guard was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.
The House bill says the study should not last more than two years.