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. scott

    Hello.. Why is the Air Force fixing this? Who made the jet? Make them fix it!....
    Geez – why is EVERYTHING with the Government such a convoluted story??
    I'm no genious, but how hard is it to keep Oxygen flowing to a face mask? Unless this is a physics type thing where the human body jsut can't take the Gs forced on it.... There are smart people out there that manufactued it, I'm sure they know what the problem is. My guess is some fool in the Government somewhere is holding this up for some reason.

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

      They are working with Lockheed. that is the way it works. BUT... in some cases (not saying this is one of them) The AF will do mods to the planes, unbeknownst to the original Mfr. This is probably not the case here, but it happens.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      The only "mods" the Air Force will do is some kinds of field repairs. The AF does not have the industrial capability to design and manufacture modifications to front line fighters. They hire contractors to do that, and usually the same ones who designed and built the originals.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Samuel R. Preston, III

    this is *exactly* why I bring my own oxygen canister whenever I fly that plane.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fish

    They need to assemble a tiger team of old aircraft maintenance personnel to brainstorm a solution, this has occurred before and that is the proven solution method. A good review of maintenance records normally reveals the cause, they have the best maintenance system in the world, I know because II helped build it in the 1980s.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Not Always your Favorite

    I bet Obama blames Bush and claims Bush himself designed the faulty O2 system.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rodeoguy

      Well O'Berry hasn't blamed Bush yet, but you have to admit that this is a problem that was inherited from his predecessor and now O'Berry has to fix it.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Not Always your Favorite

    I wonder what Ted Nugent has to say about this.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Prediction

    I worked for DoD and the amount of corruption by DoD contractors is and has been out of control for many years. I have never heard of a program for weapons that did not have huge cost over runs. If you buy defective product from them, they offer to fix but only if you renegotiate the contract cost overruns. Never buy defective weapons.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ug

    Nothing wrong with the plane...just lying libs...

    May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      This msg brought to you by Lockheed Martin...

      May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Oscar Pitchfork

    Install some sort of oxygen system from the pre-computer 60's or 70's. See how that works. You don't overcomplicate systems necessary to the life of the pilot. Idiots.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • msalman

      The most useful comment so far. Oxygen systems in fighters have been working for the last 50-60 years. There is nothing special about the flying parameters of this aircraft. It really does not fly higher or faster than any other regular fighter. It just has super cruise (all fighters can fly super sonic), thrust vector control (SU-30 MKI has that). I don't know why stealth would be an issue here. So I guess, I would just swap the oxygen system with the one from F-16 or F-17, or any other older planes.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • T

      Interesting solution.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. waheid

    The United States was not founded for the benefit of defense contractors. It was established for the benefit of the people. Under the “defense” rubric, the U.S. spends seven times as much as China and about twelve times as much as Russia. Given the amount of debt that stupid George piled up as a result of his unsuccessful adventure in Iraq, the U.S. cannot go on spending $160 million per F-22 and billions for aircraft carriers. Somewhere a line must be drawn. Conservatives are insisting that taxes are too high. One obvious target for reduction is the so-called defense budget. I say “so-called” because little of what the Dept. of Defense spends has anything to do with the defense of the U.S. At the same time that the Dept. of Defense is spending money like the proverbial drunken sailor, we are closing schools, laying off policeman, closing fire stations, idling ambulances and laying off teachers. According to the CDC, the U.S. ranks 29th worldwide in infant mortality, tying Slovakia and Poland but lagging behind Cuba. It’s time for the U.S. to rearrange its spending priorities. If the Conservatives aren’t happy, let them send voluntary contributions to the Pentagon.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick

    We spend plenty of money on defense. No need to spend more until we reduce the deficit.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      So by you saying do not spend any more on defense, or you saying any less either? Troops still need to get paid and I am just asking for clarification

      May 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      The clarification is that we have too many troops to DEFEND our country. We do seem to have enough to OFFEND the reat of the world. It is time to bring ALL the troops home and let the rest of the world defend their own places for a change. The reason we spend more than all the rest of the major militaries combined is because we spend more than them. Why would they spend more if we are already doing it for them? Cutting the defense budget by 25% would not make our country less secure. In fact, we would probably be MORE secure because we wouldn't be out there pi$$ing off everyone else and making more enemies of former allies. Europe is a much larger economic power than we are yet they only spend about 1/4 of what we do on defense. Let them shoulder a larger part of the burden!

      May 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Fish

    They need to follow the installed on chain for all WUCs on that bird. probably something with the egress system normally. Very complicated with many possible points of failure but an experienced A/C maintence man can fix I'll bet.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Not Always your Favorite

    I hope this comment ends up on CNN.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nolongerarepublican

    The much superior Typhoon Eurofighter does not have stupid problems like the F22.
    Those darn socialists, and their superior and lower cost weapons!

    May 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      LOL! The only thing the EFA has over even the superhornet is its datalink system.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine5484

      Now I agree that it shouldn't be 160 million a pop for the F-22 but, to call the euro fighter the superior plane is ridiculous completely different class of planes for one. The F-22 can super-cruse, the radar system is second to none, more stealth tech on the F-22 and is the most maneuverable aircraft of its kind.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MJMullinII

    Man! We've got to get these things working right. I mean...what about all those dogfights we get into with the Taliban! /s

    May 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Not Always your Favorite

    I flew one of these over Macho Grande once. didn't notice anything wrong with the O2 system.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
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