LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (WAVY) - The F-22 Raptor continues to be both a source of pride and frustration for the Air Force. The Military grounded the jets about a year ago, after 12 pilots suffered from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen.
The Raptors returned to flight at Langley Air Force Base in October, and a major announcement was expected Monday. That didn't come.
Problems with the F-22's Oxygen Supply System were first reported in 2008. Four years later, the Air Force, along with a panel of experts, have yet to determine what has led to at least a dozen reported physiological incidents from pilots in the cockpit.
More than a year after clearing the F-22 to resume flight operations, the Air Force is still trying to lock-on to the problem with the jet's Oxygen Supply System.
"Ideally, when we first started to refly, I would have found a broken widget or a malfunctioning gismo that I could have said that's a problem," Gen. Michael Hostage, CO Air Combat Command said. "Change it out, redesign it and the problem goes away."
"We went from ground test to flight test to what we call ‘return to fly phase,'" Gen. Gregory Martin, retired USAF said.
The Air Force is still in the "return to fly phase" and still unable to identify a root cause for the problem with the F-22 Raptor. Hostage says they are making progress with the investigation.
"For some reason, the on-board oxygen generating system and the environmental control system that feeds it, may be inputting some contaminant," Martin added.
"Or the pilot is not getting enough oxygen," Hostage said.
In November 2010, the F-22 the pilot Jeff Haney was flying over Alaska alerted him to a malfunction that cut off his oxygen supply. While trying to fix the problem, the plane crashed and Haney was killed, but the Air Force says the crash was due to pilot error.
"When faced with a complex emergency procedure at night, Capt. Haney was unable to maintain aircraft control and impacted the terrain," Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, ACC-Langley said.
Capt. Haney's family has contested the Air Force's findings and filed a lawsuit. In the meantime, the service has declared the Raptor fully operational although there are still altitude restrictions for the aircraft.
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