Meant to combat next-generation Soviet fighters that never materialised, the F-22 Raptor has been hounded by problems that culminated in the death of one of its finest pilots, Jeff Haney, in November 2010.The struggle to right the F-22 has been long and filled with pitfalls and at least two of the pilots assigned to fly the Raptor are now refusing to do so.
F-22 pilots Josh Wilson and Jeremy Gordon were on CBS’ 60 Minutes May 6 explaining why they’ve opted out of flying the Air Force fighter.
The pilots main concern is that the plane does not provide adequate oxygen and leads to hypoxia, which is what brought Jeff Haney to his death in 2010.
The pair faced some tough questions:
Is the F-22 safe to fly? “I’m not comfortable answering that question,” Gordon responds. “I’m not comfortable flying in the F-22 right now.” Hypoxia – a lack of oxygen that has persisted in the F-22 despite vain Air Force probes to figure out why – is dangerous. “The onset,” Gordon says, “is insidious.”
Wilson tells Lesley Stahl of his dogfight against hypoxia during an F-22 flight last year. “It was…kind of a surreal experience,” he says, taking “immense concentration” to perform simple tasks. Pulling an emergency oxygen ring proved daunting: “I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t remember what part of the aircraft it was in.”
The Air Force bought 179 F-22s for more than $400 million apiece and they never flew during Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan.
The Raptors were officially grounded while experts looked for the source of the breathing problems and since being returned to service seven months ago, pilots have reported 11 additional cases of hypoxia.
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