Fixes to F-22 oxygen system expected to be complete by end of year
Published: September 13, 2012
Problems with the F-22 Raptor’s oxygen system have been identified and removed, and fixes to a faulty valve on the fighter’s oxygen system should be complete by the end of the year, Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon told a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee Thursday morning.
Physiological incidents are a “fact of life” for pilots, Lyon said, but “we are certain the F-22 cockpit and surrounding space is a safe place to operate.”
Lyon is the director of operations for Air Combat Command.
The Air Force grounded the supersonic fighter jets last year after several “hypoxia-like” incidents, or incidents in which pilots experienced symptoms consistent with a lack of oxygen, like including headaches, fatigue and nausea. The planes have since returned to the air.
In March, an Air Force advisory panel said they could not figure out what had caused the problems, though they believed the jet’s oxygen system didn’t pose any unnecessary risk.
In July, Air Force leaders told reporters they had determined that a faulty valve in the vest the pilots wear was causing the incidents. The vests were removed and flights were restricted to below 44,000 feet while the Air Force worked to correct the problems.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in May ordered the Air Force to keep all F-22s close to potential landing strips so they could land quickly if problems arose. A squadron of the fighters deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan in July, though pilots had to stay at lower altitudes and remain close to land during the trip.
On Thursday, Lyon said there have been no unexplainable incidents since March 8.
“The trend is on a positive vector,” he said.