So there's been a bunch of commotion this week because two F-22 Raptor pilots say they want to transfer to flying different jets. Now, the pilots will go on 60 Minutes this Sunday to discuss the matter. Naturally, everyone's freaking out since the pilots are apparently going to blow the lid off the jets' safety issues that we, and everyone else, have written about over the last year.
As you know, the Raptors where cleared to return to flight in September 2011 following a lengthy grounding so that service officials could figure out what was causing F-22 pilots to experience hypoxia-like symptoms in flight (the grounding came several months after an Alaska-based F-22 crashed in November 2010 when its pilot lost situational awareness while trying to activate his plane's emergency oxygen system). The Air Force still hasn't figured out what's messing with the F-22's pilots and in fact, Raptor jocks have reported 11 instances of hypoxia-like symptoms since the grounding was lifted.
This has apparently prompted at least two pilots to lose faith in the jet as a safe flying platform, with one, Maj. Jeremy Gordon saying he's "not comfortable flying the F-22 right now."
The other pilot, Capt. Josh Wilson described an instance last year where he sensed the onset of hypoxia and reached for the plane's emergency oxygen system -- just like the pilot involved in the Alaska crash -- but couldn't remember how to find the system's poorly-designed activation ring.
From the Newport News Daily Press:
It was ... kind of a surreal experience," he says, because it took great concentration to do simple tasks. He attempted to pull an emergency oxygen ring and couldn't find it in the cockpit.Wait, it gets better.
"I couldn't remember what part of the aircraft it was in," he said.
The pilots were asked if some Raptor pilots had taken out additional life insurance.Ouch. This is pretty incredible, that after more than a year of research into the problem, the Air Force still can't find the cause of a major and potentially deadly problem with the world's most advanced fighter jet.
"They are. Absolutely," Wilson says. "We are waiting for something to happen, and if it happens, nobody's going to be surprised."