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. mcmill86

    The future of aviation, im sorry to tell you pilots out there, is with unmanned aircraft. Take the pilots out of the F-22 and move the pilots to secure locations to fly by remote. The time and money expended to train pilots to handle the g forces is not worth it considering the planes can handle more without carrying a human occupant.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. thatonefunnydude

    haha problems i though usa was supposed to be good i find it funny

    May 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. funnymoney

    The plane is useless. There is no correlation between any fighter plane and the safety of our nation...and yet we sign off on building these planes. When it really mattered (9/11) everyone choked, headed out to sea instead of towards DC and NYC. All that money to build the planes, to train the people to fly them, and the rest of the people on the ground (NORAD...NOIDEA) proved useless. "Is this exercise or real world?" Yea, it was real and you failed.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stan

      You're correct that the targeting systems on 9-11 were insufficient to distinguish friend form foe as airliner control was being changed while they were already airborne.

      However, you are incorrect that the plane is useless. I have been the benefactor of air superiority and have enjoyed watching air platforms do their work. There is no close air support until we control the skies. This F22 model was developed to ensure qualitative superiority over threats, so we're dropping JDAMs on them instead of them dropping it on us.

      Improve domestic air targeting systems? Yes. Abandon the technological superiority that makes us a superpower and ensures national security? Bad idea.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillyBob117

      Hey bogusmoney--you so wrong and so pahetic--

      May 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Fids

      You forgot to mention the Viet Nam equation, namely that for EVRY 1 dollar spent on an aircraft PURCHASE the Defense Dept. will spend another $20 in MAINTENANCE over the expected liftime of the craft....

      Using that formula the $350 mill for each F-22 blooms into a $7 BILLION cost....
      Every human alive in America today paid $1 for the purchase & we will spend another $20 each for EACH PLANE that lasts the expected 20 years of service.... we bought 147 of these outdated turds .

      May 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miguel

      It is apparent you have no grasp of the overall defensive and offensive capabilities of our nations military and how they work together using aircraft like this and other tools.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jt_flyer

      You're post is inaccurate. Fighter aircraft provide AIR SURPERIORITY. Without it many of the things we do on a battle field can not be done. Do you know how easy it is to shoot down a UAV? Probably not.

      May 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • DummyCash

      funnymoney, You have to be one of the most ignorrant, clueless individual in the world and probably still has the right to vote. No correlation to fighters and the security of our nation? How did we win WWII and every other major conflict since then? Yup, the use of fighters. The are as significant to warfare as the rifle or the knight on horseback. Go back and watch another roger moore movie to get all the "real info" you desperately desire and leave national defense to people with a spine. You are able to write your nonsense because of the sacrifice of people far greater than you...

      May 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeroman

      You serious with this comment?

      May 2, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boe Bud

      You are still an idiot! 911 was an inside job cooked up by our US and "the best friend" Israel/Mossad.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Honey

      It was real, orchestrated by people we trusted, enough said

      May 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Guest

    Simple solution: Fix it or don't fly it.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kevin

    The more complicated you make teh plumbing the easier it is to plug up the drains

    We've been making oxygen systems since WW2, but I'm sure that some overeager engineer just had to make some super-duper system with sensors, control units, and computers controls. So, now we have this high tech soloution to a simple problem that doesn't work as well as the low tech solution of our grandparents

    May 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • USAF Aircraft Mechanic

      I second that Kevin. Well said!

      May 2, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rustydog

    I am no areonautical engineer. I not even an engineer of any kind. However, I would not be surprised that the oxygen producing apparatus or sensors that determine when to supply oxygen are being affected by the cold temperatures experienced at high atlitudes. This makes sense in that test at normal temperatures and pressures don't reveal the malfunction. It's worth a look as the safety of our pilots is critical.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Q Daniels

      Everything is tested at full environmental extremes including the fully assembled aircraft.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ituri

    Gee, a little thing like oxygen deprivation, eh? The military doesn't need its pilots doing frivolous things like breathing, you know.

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

    The oxygen systems will be upgraded on next year's release of the iPlane.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Timetowinialwayswin

    if ur gonan spend a billion bucks on an f22, might as well spend the extra couple hundred for a handyman to fix the oxygen lol

    May 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Timetowinialwayswin

    ^That was at DUH btw

    May 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. singing flea

    The military now buys half it's parts from China. Half of those a counterfeit. We have been had by the corporations that refuse to hire Americans anymore.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ill take the one from china

    singing flea, do some research on this plane before you post about Chinese products. This one for sure isnt made with Chinese parts.

    Mister Fids – outdated huh? Interesting. Where do you get your data? Wikipedia? Or do you believe everything you read? Part of the info in this article is inaccurate, like the 12000 deployments.
    Just saying.

    May 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ryan

    Because of the inaccurate information surrounding the facts I wouldn't blame individuals for refusing to fly. Kind of like a tire company a few years back, like you took your life in your hands if you drove a Ford Explorer....

    Regardless, I know that no one on this post including myself understands the full scope of the problem. The article surely didn't mention anything resounding did it? Therefore regardless of your stance why are you even speculating without the facts?

    Anyone here care to explain the differences in symptoms between fatigue, dehydration and hypoxia? Several are common through all three. Any Aerospace physiologists care to explain that everyone may have different symptoms? Can anyone tell me what they had for dinner six months ago today? Well when the scientific advisory board solicits requests for information to the pilots about past 'issues' what do you think they are going to get back? Any math major want to predict the statistical significance of that data?

    May 3, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. leukevent

    My guess is that the DOD and Air Force probably have a good idea of what the problem is and don't want to make problems for Lockheed Martin who is also building the F-35, JSF-–also another 'very expensive' aircraft!

    Might it be that Lockheed Martin and the DOD got ahead of themselves in putting this revolutionary aircraft together and into flight. What if it might need to be retrofited with an entirely new O2 delivery system and just how much is that going to cost per unit?

    I think that Congress needs to take a serious look at the issue 'NOW' before too many F-35's roll off the line and the same thing starts happening to them!

    Again, I say the time is now gentlemen, before another pilot dies or a single F-22 or F-35 is delivered to its base of operations.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. norm

    Rip out the entire O2 system and replace it with one made in the USA, with USA made micro-chips.

    I bet the lowest bidder on some part of the O2 system was not a US company.

    May 3, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
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