Panetta Limits F-22 Raptor Flights Following Pilot Blackouts

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Tuesday ordered that the U.S. Air Force severely limit the number of F-22 Raptor flights until the armed forces division installs backup oxygen generators. The decision comes after several pilots complained of wooziness and fainting spells while flying the aircraft. The Defense Secretary’s decision comes after several F-22 pilots publicly refused to fly the aircraft over fears for their own safety, despite claims from the Air Force that the planes are safe.In his memo Panetta specifically states that F-22 flights should be limited in distance so Air Force pilots can make an emergency landing at any time they deem necessary. Air Force officials are also now required to report to Panetta directly on a monthly basis until the problem is solved.

According to Pentagon press secretary George Little:

“The secretary wants to add his muscle to this. He takes very seriously the concerns raised by the pilots.”

The F-22 is considered the most advanced stealth fighter jet in the world and the US Air Force currently operates 188 of the plane.

The plane had been grounded for five months after pilots complained of hypoxia, symptoms that occur because of a lack of oxygen. After an exhaustive investigation officials were not able to find the root of the problem and in September 2011 the F-22 Raptor fleet was put back into service.

The issue became more public after two F-22 pilots appears on CBS’s hit series 60 Minutes to discuss their refusal to fly the aircraft. One of those pilots, Capt. Josh Wilson was forced to be treated in a hyperbaric chamber after suffering from hypoxia during a February 2011 flight.