Air Force's F-22 back in service after 4-month grounding
September 21st, 2011
06:47 PM ET

Air Force's F-22 back in service after 4-month grounding

The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday cleared its F-22 Raptor fleet to return to service following a four-month grounding over concerns that the jets' pilots weren't getting proper oxygen.

Bases are cleared to start flying the fighter jets under a "return to flight" plan - with new rules including daily inspections of the life-support systems - that the Air Force announced earlier in the week, said Staff Sgt. Heidi Davis, spokeswoman for the Air Force's Air Combat Command.

The command grounded the jets on May 3 during an investigation into reports that 12 pilots had experienced "hypoxia-like symptoms" aboard the F-22 since April 2008. Hypoxia is oxygen deficiency.

Air Force panels still are investigating the reports and the jets' oxygen generation systems, and a report on the systems is expected to be released in the fall. Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Haynes said that with the study still happening, he couldn't comment on any findings.

However, the service is using some of what it has learned to make "changes to the (onboard oxygen generation systems) and other life support systems elements to increase our safety margin," Haynes said.

"We've also identified areas where education, training and equipment modifications will increase the safety margin for air and ground crews," Haynes said.

The fleet's life support systems will be inspected extensively before they're allowed to fly, and daily inspections will follow, the Air Force news service reported Monday.

"We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate," Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, said in the Air Force news report. "We're managing the risks with our air crews, and we're continuing to study the F-22's oxygen systems and collect data to improve it's performance."

The Air Force says that as of May, it had deployed 170 of the jets since the F-22 entered service in 2005.

The jets' return to flight will be gradual, with some pilots needing to prove their proficiency after the four-month grounding, Davis said. Not all bases with F-22s necessarily will resume flying the jets on Wednesday; the decisions will be made locally and will depend on what they have to do to get the jets ready, according to Davis.

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Air Force
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Justin

    F-22 pilots sleep in flight anyway. The jet practically flies itself lol.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RUFFNUTT (kcmo , egg poacher)

    yep... just like in knight rider... if i would have been david hasslehoff, if i would have got toatlly smashed at a bar i'd have k.i.t.t. drive me home on auto pilot..

    September 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Beans

    In soviet russia f22 knock off fly you

    September 21, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clint Eastood

      I think you watched my 1982 Firefox movie a few too many times.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Hampton Roads Resident

    It was WONDERFUL to hear the sounds of the jets flying above my house today, the sounds of freedom are magical!!!

    September 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. justathought

    @Beans-11:01 (That's a good south of the boarder name) What in the world are you trying to say?

    September 22, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. jayman419

    Maybe he's from Boston? You could be mocking a patriot, for all you know.

    Anyway, that's Yakov Smirnoff he's referencing... " In America, you can always find party. In Soviet Russia, Party always find you!" He's talking about the PAK-FA.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. God

    These planes should be grounded

    September 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • freedom

      these are the most advanced war machines on earth and you want to take them out of service. you are not to bright.

      June 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. peter

    gosh those are sweet looking.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. kosan

    I hope f-22 won't have any serious issues in future. We are relying on f-22 and f-35 heavily since we do not have any alternative project. Most worrying part is both projects belongs to single company with nearly 50% similarity so death of one will be death of another. But good thing is we have world's best scientists and engineers on whom we can trust.

    October 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Handyman

    Needed more F22 to protect world nations from bad guys

    May 6, 2012 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |