Lockheed Martin launches Twitter offensive to defend maligned fighter jets
May 7th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

Lockheed Martin launches Twitter offensive to defend maligned fighter jets

Lockheed Martin has launched an offensive to combat complaints from pilots who have refused to fly its F-22s over concerns about oxygen deprivation while in the cockpit.

The company took its campaign to the skies - er, Twitter - to try to combat growing negative publicity about its Raptors.

The Air Force has been looking into about a dozen unexplained incidents related to hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, with pilots but has been unable to pinpoint the cause, Air Combat Command has said.

Some pilots have come forward to say they won't get in the F-22s until the problem is solved.

Pilots began experiencing problems about four years ago.

“For some reason, the onboard oxygen generating system and the environmental control system that feeds it may be inputting some contaminant,” Gen. Gregory Martin, a retired Air Force veteran, told CNN affiliate WAVY in Virginia.

For a while, the problem was the subject of only a spattering of media reports, but Lockheed Martin went on the offensive (or defensive, depending whom you ask) by launching a Twitter campaign praising the fleet as "60 Minutes" aired a segment on the problems with the Raptors and interviewed decorated pilots who were refusing to fly them.

Gen. Mike Hostage of Air Combat Command recently spoke about the issue, which has plagued the fleet since problems with the F-22s' oxygen supply system were reported in 2008.

The jets have been grounded to examine the problem, but in September 2011, the Raptors were again cleared and allowed to fly. In January 2011, the jets were limited to altitudes under 25,000 feet during an investigation into a November 2010 crash. Flying above that altitude could cause a pilot to black out from lack of oxygen and lose control.

The Air Force has made sure to add emergency oxygen deployment handles should a pilot encounter any issues.

"We are diligently pursuing a variety of hypotheses to try and understand and characterize the exact circumstances we've been experiencing," Hostage said.

As the "60 Minutes" feature aired, Lockheed Martin tweeted about the impressive speeds and missions that no other planes but the F-22s were able to claim. But it also got a few pithy responses to the public relations campaign.

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. Edward Alvarez

    I think the Raptor is a great fighter plane but if there's a problem so serious like that, Lockhead Martin should fix it for the safety of the pilots

    May 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dreamer96

    Maybe it's their silicone rubber seals giving off formaldehyde gas...or from plastic, which also can give off formaldehyde gas...or they are bringing in some oils, hydraulic fluid..jet fuel...

    May 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. brittcrowell

    With a 30 Billion dollar US tax payer investment, it should be fixed. I'll even volunteer to be one of the test pilots to investigate!

    May 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Fr33th1nk3r

    Twitter? Really?

    * sigh* + facepalm

    May 8, 2012 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      I just wonder how these pilots get away with "refusing" to fly these planes..They obviously are high ranking officers as lower ranking officers would not get away with doing that. But seems like these officers are in violation of the UCMJ..Derilection of duty, disobeying an order. You can see how favoritism of Officers over enlisted prevails in the AF. Regular Airmen would not get away with refusing to do something regardless if it was a safety issue or not

      May 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    Concorde, a 1970's era airliner built by of all people the French and the British, did Mach 2 without afterburners, and their passengers were able to breathe just fine.

    May 8, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Glaucon

      @David – What do you mean "built by of all people the French and the British"?

      May 8, 2012 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
    • TommyTee

      What kind of comment is that.? "Built By all people the french and the british"...do you think they can't built anything? Where do you think the statue of liberty came from? Or the venerable spitfire...seriously man!

      May 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    It seems Lockheed Martin's messaging strategy is going to backfire on them. They need to focus on reassuring the American public that safety is a priority not Tweeting about how fast the F-22 can fly. This approach will only make people angry. it appears evasive.

    May 8, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Picard

    Lockhead Martin charges the taxpayer ie. government $150 million per F-22. The pilots selected are the best of the best, not some off the street yo yo learning to fly a cessna. The F-22 is a beautiful aircraft but if the pilots say there is a problem then figure it out and FIX IT!!! If anyone from Lockhead is reading these posts then listen to this "FIX THE PROBLEM!!!" I understand anything made by man will fail but for the amount of $$ your company charges per plane, this should've been erradicated 4 years ago when it was first reported!

    May 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Frmr Nav Pilot

    Air Force obviously does not need pilots very badly if they can sacrifice them so Lockheed Martin doesn't look bad.

    May 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. csm9555

    SB – It’s not Dereliction of duty. It’s not like the F-22 isn’t involved in any combat right now. If they were refusing the fly combat missions fine, but they are refusing to fly training/ferrying missions on an unsafe piece of equipment. I wouldn't expect a soldier to hope into a HMMWV with the wheel about to fall off just to go play a war game, so I wouldn’t expect a pilot to jump into a $150 million aircraft that’s trying to strangle them.

    If Red Dawn happens tomorrow and they don't want to take them up thats one thing, but for now I say until the fix the thing I'd rather they not be flying them anyway.

    May 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Phaedrus

    I’m always amazed at how large corporations (defense, drug, automobile, etc.) vehemently deny health and safety issues rather than simply admit that, at minimum, there ‘might’ be a problem and investigate. I understand the litigation issues, but still…

    If, like the Supreme Court believes, corporations are ‘people’ then it is obvious these ‘people’ have evolved into a culture of deceit, social irresponsibility, and asocial behavior… in short, no better than the Mafia. The mob will kill to
    protect itself, too…

    May 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. 1amazed1

    They need to find the problem..... Its obvious there is something going on with the plane

    May 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
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