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. leave it alone

    probably a sensor made in china

    May 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      More likely a sensor made here in the USA by overpaid union labor.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tomnikoly


    Wasn't there a news item a couple months ago about the F-35C carrier version having its OWN teething trouble? I can't recall what the issue was.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pmmarion

    I seem to recall reading, years ago, about a blood/oxygen monitor that clips to your ear and alerts you when your blood/oxygen level dips to low. One would think that these would be standard equipment on fighter planes.

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

      You need to read the story. They know that the oxygen levels are falling, but they cannot find the reason the levels are falling.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lewy

    The only things that these planes are good for are stadium and parade fly-overs.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      You forgot air shows.

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

    Why don't these geniuses that spent tons of our tax money just put one of those metal oxygen bottles and a tube to the face mask? I see people with those all the time and they don't seem to have any trouble getting oxygen. This is proof that there is no intelligent life on earth. What total DAs!!!

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

    So why doesn't CNN allow comment on the demise of the bucket list baby?

    May 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Richard Miller

    And we paid how much for this plane???????

    May 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      You mean, how much did children who will be born in 2050 pay for this plane?

      May 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Everett Wallace

    Maybe those few are more comfortable in other fighter jets than the F-22. Does not matter you are still 1 of my Angels.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Always your Favorite

      Angels? What the...dude, really?

      May 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Everett Wallace

      YEP YEP YEP really.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DUH

    What are they doing with our tax money? I guess we should count ourselves lucky that they at least put wings on these airplanes. But then again, what good are wings if the pilots drop dead from lack of oxygen. What morons that built these planes. These fools that designed this airplane should be imprisoned for wasting tax payer money. They didn't design airplanes. They designed flying death traps. Total 100% DAs!!! Go back to engineering school and quit wasting my tax money fools.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      So, you think you could do better?

      May 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Indigo Montoya

    Just got back to midtown from downtoan. So much for the Occupy May Day nonsense. A bunch of hipsters and slackers, maybe 150 total. What a joke. I shoved one out of my way leaving the firm I was attending a deposition at. The little wannabe revolutionary just glared at me. Losers.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      You are SUCH a man! i am proud of you.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. American

    I would hope there are a large number of DoD Brass out there feeling truley ashamed at the failures of the procurement programs. Everyone one of these programs overspends, underdelivers and is late. It is apalling,

    May 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DUH

    Insufferable fools designed this flying death trap.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. racerx

    at NASCAR events.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bwelter

    If I flew the fast jets, I'd probably want to stick with the tried and true as well. Yeah, the Raptor is a cool plane, but so is the Viper and the Eagle. The one and only time I saw the F-22 fly, the demo was cut after just 5 minutes because of an aparent problem.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 1221

    Should have kept the F-14 Tomcats. Best fighter ever built with a solid history... even if it is 70's tech.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Indigo Montoya

      Maintenance costs of the Tomcat were through the roof. Let it go.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Indigo Montoya

      Ah good ol' American know how!

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

      Why don't you just tell them to bring back those F4U corsairs and P51s since you're so insistent on having our pilots fly obsolete machines?

      May 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      Actually, we should be building more Super hornets and F-16s with upgraded avionics. Cheap to build and maintain. Great to fly.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • AutoExpert

      Should've kept the 1957 Chevy. Best car ever built with a solid history....even if it's 50's tech.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
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