Air Force Redesigns F-22 Emergency Oxygen Handles

Remember the Air Force's accident report on the December 2010 F-22 crash in Alaska, where the service basically blamed the pilot for not switching on his emergency oxygen system system in time to avoid a crash?

The report said the airman accidentally pointed his jet toward the ground when he reached for the poorly-placed backup oxygen system handle after his jet's main oxygen system shut down (something that led his widow to sue F-22-maker Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors.). It went on to infer that if he had reached for the handle and realized he was in a dive sooner, he might still be alive despite the poor placement of the switch.

Well, that emergency oxygen system handle was so poorly designed that the Air Force is retrofitting F-22s with a new emergency oxygen system handle.

From an Air Force announcement:

The modification is to the F-22's Emergency Oxygen System handle, which makes it easier for the pilot to access. Det 1 model makers Floyd Slinker and Terry Waugh designed it.

Approximately 200 handles, which cost $47 apiece to manufacture, have been delivered, including spares. The handles have already been fielded at the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

"The fact that this detachment was able to do this quickly, cheaply and effectively, and get it into the hands of our aircrews shows them the Air Force is involved and working to get the F-22 recommendations in place as quickly as possible," Lyon said. "I wanted to come by today and thank the folks who came up with the idea, designed it, programmed it, machined it, mailed it, paid for it, and got it out there in a very rapid manner. I'm very proud of the unit for what they've done."

The handle was one of the F-22 components identified by a Scientific Advisory Board, which studied safety issues on the jet, as one of the critical items to be fixed. The SAB, an independent board working under the direction of the Air Force, investigated the oxygen systems in the jet after months of problems with the main and backup systems.

"The handle provides the pilot much easier access to the handle, provides an easier grip, especially when wearing cold weather gear, and allows the pilot to apply more leverage to the activation ring," said Lt. Col. Beachel Curtis, Det 1 commander.

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