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Major Jeremy Gordon and Captain Josh Wilson sat down with Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes for an interview, broadcast Sunday, where the Virginia Air Guard officers said they refused to fly the F-22 Raptor.Their concerns were prompted by a series of issues with the plane, most notably its oxygen system, which appears to send pilots into hypoxia, a deadly oxygen deprived condition that has already killed one pilot.
During the interview senior officer Gordon told Stahl, “Is the F-22 safe to fly? “I’m not comfortable answering that question.” Gordon continued, “I’m not comfortable flying in the F-22 right now.”
Two days later Gordon and Wilson had both changed their mind.
Hugh Lessig at The Daily Press reports the pair were escorted to the 60 Minutes interview by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. To step so widely outside the chain of command, it is customary to contact one’s local politician.
Both men enjoy protected whistleblower status, and claim to have reversed their position on the F-22 because the Air Force “recently removed a charcoal filter which had been installed as a hedge against oxygen contamination.”
“The filter was making things worse,” they said.
Going outside the chain of command in the military may be the most contentious act a servicemember can perform and brings untold difficulties.
To agree to do it arm-in-arm with a politician, on hugely popular national television show — over a criticised and expensive program like the F-22 — cannot have been easy. In fact, it could have been only slightly less detrimental to their futures than flying the F-22 in the first place.
The past few days are likely to have been harder still on the men, and it’s impossible to say what they’ll continue to endure for telling the people who pay for their planes, what they really thought.
Update: Following this post I was contacted by Frederick Morgan Jr. who specialises in whistleblower cases and has been involved with this case. He filled in some details that seem to establish this is not the absolute flip-flop it appears to be on the surface. Here is an updated post following that conversation.
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