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. The Instructor

    Could it just be some bad plastic or rubber tubing that is collapsing. Maybe it was made in that big country we like to import stuff from in the far east.

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

    THAT'S why they haven't remade Top Gun yet...

    May 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Vin

    It's the aliens. They don't want to be detected by these high-flying F-22s. So, they found a simple solution. 🙂

    May 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Simple solution. Take the pilots out of the plane. Drones don't need oxygen or a return trip. MUCH cheaper. I know pilots are better when they are flying but we can't afford to keep pilots in the air when drones can do it much cheaper

      May 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tony

    What part of West Africa is in the USA and needs defending?

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

      What are you Chinese? We are forward deployed. Get used to it. You're never getting out of your cage.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Campbell

      Ummmmm. Have you looked at our population lately? I'd say about 1/2 of it!!

      May 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. T

    Just have Hal Jordan test the plane, he'll find the problem...(LOL).

    May 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • cinghoa

      I think that went over some heads.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sal

    What a bunch of dumb comments in here. And the posters of some of these comments are also. 

    May 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Duc749

    The Marine Corps is still flying their F-22's. I'm just saying...

    May 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ice Queen

      Is that a joke? The Marines don't have F-22s.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lifedream

      Except that they don't have any... Nobody except the U.S. Air Force has them...

      May 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • plenty

      Marines don't need much O2, they use what they have no matter what, gotta love that.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • dt

      Air Force F-22s have performed air shows flying from Marine bases. That was reported by Fox news as though the Marines have F-22s which they do not – at least yet.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sneekasnaaka

    Try the Osprey MV-22...anti ice system is a disaster. Cover-up central, I say.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. svann

    Pilot opens a window to smoke a blunt. Mnnnnnzzzzz

    May 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Indigo Montoya

    Overpaid union labor costing servicemen their lives yet again...

    May 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heywood Jablome

      Are you sure you can't blame this on Obama or Pelosi or women in general? Maybe it's the fault of college educated city dwellers. Man I'd hate to live in your head. Thrash on brother.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJ Reality

      Yeah those stupid unionized design engineers it's all their fault and the aliens who helped them.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • plenty

      I would think it's a design flaw, engineering.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Miller

    That's "Lowest Bid" fer ya !

    May 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Indigo Montoya

    OK, now I'm going to pull a mid air J-turn and....Whoa.....head rush.....zzzzzz......splat.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John the Electrician

    No space shuttle and our newest plane can't fly over 25K. Thanks Boeing!

    May 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Herbys

      What does Boeing have to do with the unavailability of the shuttle? The shuttle program was ended due to its cost and inefficiency, and it was costly and inefficient due to political issues such as sourcing contacts interferring with their design (none of them having any to do with Boeing, mind you).

      May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Campbell

      The Space Shuttle program was brought to a stop because 1 – the shuttle fleet had long outlasted it's life expectancy and had done way more than it was ever thought to be capable of. Yes, extending the program beyond it's scope cost more money. And 2 – because the technology was old and outdated and becoming less safe and less reliable. Vendors were no longer making their parts. It also has made countless contributions to mankind.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mike in texas

    can the taxpayers sue the government for making a 70 billion dollar plane that doesn't work ?

    May 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. realistinca

    So? Follow orders and fly. Who cares what the pilots think.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ice Queen

      In the fighter community, no one questions a pilot's opinion on safety. There's a reason for that–they're trained to be experts at recognizing G-lock and hypoxia. Let's also not forget about the two incidents in the last few years (one not too long ago) of a jet going down and hitting civilians.

      The pilot killed in Alaska was my friend. My husband flies these jets. To me there is NOTHING more important than safety.

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