F-22 pilots speak out over hypoxia

Two Air National Guard F-22 pilots have spoken out about their refusal to fly missions in the aircraft over safety concerns.

The commander of Air Combat Command was forced to speak out on 30 April ahead of the broadcast of a CBS 60 Minutes programme regarding problems with the F-22.

Gen Mike Hostage, spoke of the status of efforts to identify a root cause for unexplained physiological incidents for Raptor pilots, and of risk mitigation efforts since the Raptor’s return to flying operations in September 2011.

An ACC stand down last year ran from May to September following reports of potential oxygen system malfunctions. Many feel a further period of grounding would be too embarrassing for the USAF. Hostage said he understands there are still concerns about the aircraft; however, he explained that there’s always a certain amount of risk involved, and the risk must be balanced with the requirement for the capability.

However, despite the return to flying operations, the USAF continues to search for the root cause of the unexplained physiological incidents – likened to hypoxia. Hostage said he believes the command is making significant progress toward an answer; however, he emphasized that scientific testing and data collection take time.

Virginia Air National Guard F-22 Raptor pilots from the 192nd FW; Maj Jeremy Gordon and Capt Josh Wilson took the unprecedented step of going on TV without formal USAF approvals. Both have removed themselves from flying duties over the concerns with the F-22’s onboard oxygen generating system, risking their careers by doing so.

Gordon said; ‘I am not comfortable flying the aircraft right now’. Both informed their commands in January that they would not fly the aircraft after both suffered hypoxic like symptoms in flight.

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