Unspecified Maintenance Error After F-22 Was Washed Led to Crash at Eglin

An F-22A Raptor taxis at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
An F-22A Raptor taxis at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 20, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr.)

A maintenance error that was made after an F-22 Raptor was washed led to its crash near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, last May, Air Combat Command said Friday.

In a statement to Military.com, the command said that the maintenance mistake affected the fighter's control inputs, although ACC declined to release further details on what went wrong that led to the May 15, 2020, crash such as how the washing of the aircraft was related to the maintenance issue.

The pilot, assigned to 43rd Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Wing, began taking off from Eglin that morning before noticing a warning related to the flight control system, Air Combat Command said. The pilot decided to continue the takeoff, but soon started having trouble controlling the plane.

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Even as a plan to land the aircraft safely was being put together, the pilot kept having problems with the plane and ejected, sustaining minor injuries, the command said. The $201 million fighter was destroyed.

In an unusual development, Lt. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, deputy commander of Air Combat Command, decided to waive the requirement to convene an accident investigation board that would determine the cause of the crash. Instead, a commander-directed investigation was conducted.

The command said this was done "due to operational security concerns," but did not say what those concerns were.

A safety investigation board also was conducted to find the cause of the accident and prevent future mishaps, it added.

The Northwest Florida Daily News first reported the results of the crash investigation, as well as the decision not to hold an accident investigation board.

The F-22 crash was the first of two nearly back-to-back fighter crashes at Eglin last year that led the base to briefly ground flights to review safety procedures. In the second accident that week, an F-35 crashed while landing May 19, 2020. That pilot successfully ejected.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

Related: Eglin Orders Brief Suspension of Flight Ops Following F-35, F-22 Crashes

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