F-22 Hypoxia Cases: Congressmen Question Whether Air Force Is Doing Enough

The F-22 Raptor is the United States Air Force’s best and most advanced fighter plane; Lockheed Martin, who manufactures the F-22 Raptor, says that it’s more maneuverable than any other fighter plane, and was built with air superiority in mind.

As good as the F-22 Raptor may be in the air, its strengths have been overshadowed over the past year by reports of F-22 pilots suffering from hypoxia as a result of an apparently faulty oxygen delivery system.

The issue first came to a head after the fatal November 2010 F-22 Raptor crash in Alaska involving Capt. Jeff Haney. Although the military never officially confirmed that the crash was the result of the pilot losing oxygen, but it’s widely believed that the tragic accident was the first fatality resulting from the F-22’s faulty oxygen delivery system.

It wasn’t the first case, however, and it hasn’t been the last. Since then, several pilots have come forward saying that they suffered hypoxia after piloting the F-22 Raptor. Two recent incidents involving pilots in Virginia and Hawaii have prompted two members of Congress to issue a letter of concern to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.

In the letter, as reported by the News Herald, the Congressmen questioned whether or not the Air Force was doing enough in its search to get to the root of the F-22 hypoxia problem.

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“This plane is not going to be part of our national defense if, one, pilots don’t feel safe or, two, they are unable to get the proper oxygen,” United States Senator Mark R. Warner, D-Va, said in a video news release.

In a July 5 press release issued by the Air Combat Command, Major General Charles Lyon, the ACC’s director of operations, said that a number of initiatives were put into place to protect F-22 pilots, including comprehensive aircraft and life support system inspections.

“We have taken a 9-1-1 call approach,” Lyon is quoted as saying in the press release. “We have instructed our airmen in the field that whenever they get any indication that something may not be right, knock it off, and terminate the flight. We focus all our attention on them and the safe recovery of the aircraft.”