Raptor Drivers Can't Stay Current with Sims Alone

Four months into the F-22 fleet grounding because of faulty oxygen systems, the Vice Chief of the Air Force Philip Breedlove told Air Force Times that Raptor pilots are losing proficiency and that simulator training won't solve the problem.

AF Times reports:

The Raptor fleet was grounded on May 3 as a result of suspected problems with their oxygen systems, possibly related to a fatal crash in November 2010.

Pilots have been spending time in simulators to maintain some of their skills, but the lack of flight time is eroding their qualifications, said Gen. Philip Breedlove, the air force vice chief.

The restrictions have also disrupted the F-22 training pipelines, with prospective pilots being ordered to their home stations until the fighters are able to return to the air.

In order to remain current in the F-22, a pilot must each month fly a certain number of sorties, as well as make landings, perform basic fighter maneuvers, practice air combat maneuvering and tactical intercepts, among a host of other skills, said one former F-22 pilot.

If a pilot hasn't flown at all in 210 days, he must go through the entire training course again, although a special requalification syllabus is being worked up to shorten the time involved, said officials.

This could get expensive . . .

Good thing world events allow us to go months at a time without our "frontline fifth generation fighter."  Imagine if there was a war going on or something.

This problem with the Raptor's oxygen system -- known as "OBOGS" for onboard oxygen generating system -- is obviously proving vexing for Wright-Patterson's engineers and other program officials.  Defenceweb reports that "late last month it emerged that F-22 pilots may have been suffering the effects of toxins ingested during flight as particulates from hot oil, burned antifreeze and propane turned up in blood samples of pilots from six out of seven F-22 bases."  That's some nasty stuff that certainly could have long-term health implications.  I mean, I'm not a flight surgeon but I'm pretty sure you shouldn't breath burned antifreeze.  (Regular antifreeze is fine, of course.)

The selling point of OBOGS is it never runs out, unlike the old LOX bottles we used to use back in the day.  But things that don't run out are the devil's work, aren't they?

-- Ward

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