Some pilots won't fly F-22s until cause of oxygen deprivation in cockpit solved
May 1st, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Some pilots won't fly F-22s until cause of oxygen deprivation in cockpit solved

A few pilots have told the Air Force they won't fly their expensive F-22 Raptor stealth jets because no cause has been found for oxygen deprivation incidents in the cockpit, the head of Air Combat Command for the U.S. Air Force told reporters.

The Air Force has been looking for the cause of about a dozen unexplained incidents related to hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, with pilots, but so far has been unable to pinpoint it, Gen. Mike Hostage with Air Combat Command said in a media briefing.

Hostage noted it was a very small group of pilots who opposed flying the Raptors. Pilots began experiencing problems starting four years ago.

“For some reason, the on-board 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.

Hostage said if a contaminant is not the problem, there may be something else hindering pilots from getting enough oxygen.

Hostage spoke at length with reporters about the issue, which has plagued the fleet since problems with the F-22’s oxygen supply system were first reported in 2008.  The jets have previously been grounded to examine the issue , but one year ago the Raptors were again cleared and allowed to fly. In January 2011,  the jets were limited to altitudes under 25,000 feet during an ongoing investigation into a November 2010 crash. Flying above that altitude could cause a pilot to black out from lack of oxygen and lose control.

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

The Air Combat Command said it still has not identified the "root cause" of the oxygen issue, but is making progress with its investigation and hopes to soon determine the exact cause of the problem.

“The smoking gun is disassembled in a mosaic in front of us. ... At some point we’re going to have the smoking gun assembled,” Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, the director of operations for ACC, told the Air Force Times.

While Hostage said that there was certainly a concern about the group of incidents, he didn't think it was necessary to pull the entire group of jets, which have had 12,000 deployments and a total of 15,000 flight hours since September 11 and only  a handful of problems. The Air Force has also made sure to add new emergency oxygen deployment handles, should a pilot encounter any issues.

And the F-22s are still being used when needed, including  a recent deployment by the Air Force of a squadron of the Raptors to southwest Asia.

"I fully expect we'll get to a solution," Hostage said. "I won't give you a timetable, but we have made great progress to that effect and am confident we'll put this behind, we'll be able to explain it, and we'll retool the airplane to make this problem go away."

Read more on the F-22's oxygen problems:

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

Air Force grounds F-22s over oxygen system concerns 


Filed under: Military • U.S. Air Force
soundoff (309 Responses)
  1. Who Needs Oxygen

    Not too big a problem, since after Bush procured 187 F 22s Obama cancelled the program. Pilots can fly F 15s or F 18s, thirty year old jalopies like Tom Cruise flew in Top Gun. It's all fun until you run into a robust air defense umbrella or Chinese stealth fighters. Ahh, but that's long after re election.

    Don't ask about cutting the Army from 570,000 to 490,000, Marines cut from 200,000 to 180,000, unilaterally disarming 80% of US nuclear capability, the open-mic gaffe to Medvedev about dismantling the nuclear defense shield upon re-election, pushing back submarine lifecycle replacement .... and the list goes on.

    More important to fund welfare than national defense. People getting wealth redistribution vote to continue it. Nobody votes for national defense.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Excellent synopsis!

      May 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • We need oxygen

      Yes it certainly is important to fund more social welfare than national 'defense'.

      While we spend billions on destroying lives around the world in the name of 'freedom', the only beneficiary is the military-industrial complex while we pay the immense taxes to fund a war machine that for some reason still has not been able to beat a military organization with proper training, weaponry or food hiding out in the mountains of Afghanistan for over 10 years.

      So I think the more pressing issue here is to actually help humanity and stop the ridiculous notion that the United States must guard every threat to 'liberty' which is really just a loaded word for gaining more money for U.S investors.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • stats can say anything

      we could our military in half and it would still be bigger than China's.

      Stats are lame.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slewatha

      Tom Cruise flew F-14's in Top Gun, retired years ago.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      Just FYI...F-14's were flown in Top Gun and they were decommissioned years ago.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Independent

      The program was limited to 187 aircraft in 2004 when Bush was President.

      There's drawdown in troops since we ended combat operations in Iraq and things are winding down in Afghanistan.

      There's also something called the deficit. And spending billions of dollars on a plane that has never seen combat is a waste of money(along with JSF).

      May 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey

      Who needs programs that not only defends this country; but also provides high quality jobs, tech spin offs that benefit everyone, and boosts the economy? What we need is more welfare rat holes that return nothing

      May 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikes

      The US hasn't had to make use of defense since WW2. Since then, it's all been offense, nation building, making war contractors rich and taxpayers poor.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ziggy Tomcich

      Your argument that the United States need a larger military is irrational. Any single branch of our armed services is larger than the every other country's military around the world combined. We hemorrhage money on our military which adds to our debt and prevents us from investing in our future. Our military industrial complex is designed to spend as much money as inefficiently as possible through a complex maze of corruption. It's terrible for the economic health of our country, it's totally unsustainable, and completely unnecessary.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      FAIL

      May 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in Pekin

      Tom Cruise did not fly an F15 or FA18. His character flew an F14 Tomcat, which was the Navy's fighter at the time.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • woodofpine

      The US spends more money on its military than the rest of the top 15 spenders combined. We spend more than 5 times more money than spender #2 China (that has more volatile neighbors). Reagan's former director of OMB (David Stockman) urged an immediate 25% cut in DOD funding last August. Personally, I think it ought to be much higher. The GOP right though will scream about the National Debt but be silent or even attack reductions in this wasteful sector that makes up half the federal government's discretionary spending.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      Waaaaaaaahhhhh! Oh Lord, get over yourself.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Obvious

      The cold war is over. Apparently, you didn't get the memo.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • tomnikoly

      "Top Gun" featured F-14 Tomcats which have been out of service for many years, replaced with the F/A-18. I would not refer to the the F/A-18 or the F-15 as jalopies.

      The F-22 and the F-35 JSF are marvelous cutting edge machines....but we can't afford them and in truth, we don't really need them as they have no mission in today's warfare. At the least I would say we certainly can't afford them in high numbers. Neither plane can do much about about IED's or suicide bombers.

      The Raptor is an air superiority fighter. I believe we already have that with our present equipment coupled with the best trained pilots in the world. But what does air superiority really mean today? We aren't fighting another sovereign country's similarly equipped air force as we were in previous conventional wars.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmesIA

      We spend over half our budget on defense. Big chunks of that spending is on weapon systems conceived 20 years ago to address a strategic issue 10 years older than that. The answer isn't more complex and expensive per-unit fantasy machines. The world is increasingly dynamic. How well would Microsoft be doing if requirements for Windows 7 had been defined based on the business environment of 1988?

      May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jetstar

      What the heck are you talking about? You make absolutely no sense and dont have a clue of what you are talking about. By the way Tom Cruise flew a F!4 Tomcat which have been retired. Get your fax straight before you blabber off.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • 69amcrebel

      Tom Cruise flew the F-14 Tomcat

      May 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • your_Money

      how would you like to pay for all of it? $700,000,000,000 a year not enough to spend on national defense? Would you prefer to double it? Get your wallet out, my good chum, and pay for some of that yourself. I'm willing to bet you sneak back off into the shadows!

      May 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wasting Money

      I vote for national defense. I don't however, think we need to keep fighting war after war. Defense should mean defending our homeland and not trying to police the world or act like we own the world. We should have a strong and up to date military.If we stopped fighting wars we would have money to keep our military at higher levels, replace equipment more expeditiously and pay for social programs. These wars are killing our budgets and are really only good for those who actually profit from war which isn't the majority of Americans.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      National defense is hugely important, but it shouldn't be a big welfare program. If we don't need something, cut it. Waste is waste, even in our sacrosanct defense budget.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      1. In Top Gun they were flying F-14s, which are no longer in service.
      2. Defense spending went up the first two years under Obama. I haven't checked the figures for the last year, but suspect it is still higher than the last Bush year. Of course because of the wars we've been fighting, more money has to go to operation costs as opposed to new weapons procurement. Don't blame Obama for that one.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • yep

      Yep... we need to feed more money to the #1 military in the world that is not threatened by anyone. Chinese stealth jets? foxfacts again? bet u think china has 10+ aircraft carriers too....
      Fear mongering has u cross eyed.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dickie

    The f-22 and f-35's have been out for years and I still don't think they use them in combat.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      That’s exactly the point! The most effective weapon is the one that you never have to use because it’s so deadly. Tactics 101

      May 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Socrates

      Great.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      The F-35 hasn't been out for "several years." The Lockheed plants aren't at the mass production stage yet. Most of the plants have only recently begun to install the heavy assembly-line equipment.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      The F-35 is not operational yet, and the F-22 isn't built for Close Air Support...that is all the missions that are occurring in Afghanistan right now. If surgical strikes are carried out in Iran with the high level of SAMs and fighters that would be put up then the you can bet the Raptors will be utilized.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jt_flyer

    At 150 million per copy let's get the O2 system fixed. It's has to be one of the simpler systems onboard

    May 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill (Louisiana)

    Sounds to me like these jets all need to be grounded for the safety of all pilots and also us folks on the ground that can be affected by jets hitting the ground after a blackout. Thes big corporations that build them charge a lot for them, we could buy Jets from China with an oxygen problem, sure they would sell them to us. The Government covers it up so they can award the same company more contracts for more defective Jets. Low Bid, Only Bid.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jj

    "When a govt gets so big that it can give an individual everything they want it is so big to take everything away." –Thomas Jefferson–

    May 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jet Jock

    It's Obama. He sucks all the oxygen where ever he goes.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Smith2

      Pierce Becky Crabtree and the Buick Regal

      May 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ziggy Tomcich

    Bring in the NTSB and they'll find the source of the problem. They always do, and they've made flying safer than it's ever been. If we relay on the military or one of their contractors to determine the problem, they'll continue to drag their feet flying unsafe aircraft until more people die, just like they did with the Osprey. The military has shown us time and time again that they are terrible at policing or fixing themselves. The military and their contractors failed to design a safe fighter aircraft. If we want results, bring in the professionals at the NTSB.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. capt. video

    The White House says its all Woodrow Wilson's fault!

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

    I remember reading a few months ago of at least one USAF F-22 pilot who apparently crashed due to issues with the oxygen supply, however, the official finding was that the crash was due to pilot error because he did not follow protocol for oxygen malfunction. Ridiculous. It is the manufacturer's fault. Fix this problem now for the well-being of our pilots and make this expensive piece of metal fully operational instead of sitting on the ground.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Slewatha

    Waste of money, we have been at war for a decade and these have not seen any combat sorties.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      Last time I checked the Taliban don't fly MiGs and even Saddam Hussein failed to put up a single aircraft in during Operation Iraqi Freedom genius...that's what the F-22 is primarily built for...to shoot down other enemy aircraft.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. HarvardLaw92

    The F-22 was canceled because of massive cost-overruns, the lack of a clear mission for the plane in the absence of expected 5th generation Russian and Chinese fighters (which have yet to show up), bans on the export of the F-22 (even to friendly allies) and the introduction of the F-35, which is far cheaper, more versatile and a more appropriate use of limited resources.

    In short, the 22 is an incredible plane, that costs a fortune to build, in search of an enemy to justify its existence. The 35 is a much more prudent use of funds. 63 have been delivered, over 2,000 more are expected.

    Also, Cruise flew an F-14 in Top Gun. That plane was over 30 years old and has been retired. Meanwhile, the F/A-18F Super Hornet, which you so casually dismiss as a jalopy, entered service in 1995 and is virtually state of the art. It also has a flyaway cost of $66 million, contrasted with the Raptor's insane flyaway cost of $150 million, each ...

    May 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      Ooh, a Harvard law grad. That's nice.

      BTW, The Russians have developed a prototype 5th gen fighter. Try to keep up, sport.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      I've been told that the F-35 is a step backwards from the F-22 and has not performed to expectations...

      May 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • HarvardLaw92

      How nice for them. We're supposed to spend $150 million a pop on F-22's to combat a Russian prototype that has been in development for over 15 years and has yet to even fly, much less become operational? These are limited planes that are only suited for one type of mission – combatting 5th generation enemy planes that don't exist. They're pretty useless for close in air-support.

      No thanks ...

      May 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • tomnikoly

      Your reply pretty much sums up my own (see above). Thank you.....jalopies....LOL!!!!!!

      May 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ice Queen

      While the F-35 in theory would be cheaper and more versatile, it is now so far over on costs and so far delayed that, at the end of the day, it will be much more expensive than originally planned. Add to that the jets have been so dysfunctional that they are pumping out completely stripped down versions just so they can "stand up" a squadron. It will be a decade before they're close to combat, if then.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rick from L.A.

    F-22 are too expensive and not versatile enough to justify it's existence. Boeing is creating a stealth version of the F-15 soley for export to countries like south korea. Those silent eagles build upon a proven airframe giving it better capabilites than our aged fleet of F-15's albeit with less stealth then a raptor, but at a much lower price tag. F-22 = overall failure as a workhorse aircraft.

    It would of been more cost effective to create small squadrons of 22's to be used in a similar fashion to the Army special forces teams on the ground and backed up by more conventional and more missions capable fighters.

    a flight of 4 F-22 air superiority fighter & 4 F-35 armed with anti radar munitions and precision strike munitions flying ahead of a strike package of multirole fighters escorted by Silent Eagles. That would be extremly effective and less costly then sending in a strike package composed of F-22 and F-35.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeffq

    Hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on just 1 F-22 and the developers cant even get oxygen to the pilots?? What a waste...Not to mention the hundreds of thousands being spent on the strike fighter F-35 which was designed with no possibility for a variant for an air craft carrier. OOOPPSSSSS!

    May 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • HarvardLaw92

      Say again? The F-35C is the carrier version.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Are You Kidding?

    what liberal fool decided to have this press conference.....now those that would fly against them know a weakness. Way to go

    May 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      It's been public knowledge for over 3 years.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. woodofpine

    The US spends more money on its military than the rest of the top 15 spenders combined. We spend more than 5 times more money than spender #2 China (that has more volatile neighbors). Reagan's former director of OMB (David Stockman) urged an immediate 25% cut in DOD funding last August. Personally, I think it ought to be much higher. The GOP right though will scream about the National Debt but be silent or even attack reductions in this wasteful sector that makes up half the federal government's discretionary spending.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
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