WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense Inspector General on Monday disputed an Air Force investigation that blamed pilot error rather than oxygen supply problems for the crash of an F-22 Raptor in November 2010.
The Air Force grounded the jets — considered the world’s most advanced — for several months in 2011 after reports by pilots that oxygen-supply system failures lead to symptoms including headache, fatigue and nausea.
The Air Force report, completed in late 2011, concluded that it was not an oxygen supply problem, but several errors by Capt. Jeffrey Haney, who was killed, that led to the crash north of Anchorage, Alaska.
“I find the cause of the mishap was [Haney’s] failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan and unrecognized spatial disorientation,” wrote the officer who headed the Air Force accident investigation.
But a report by the DOD IG said the Air Force conclusion was “not supported by the facts” within the crash report.
The Air Force investigation concluded that while the plane’s oxygen supply had stopped, Haney failed to activate a backup system or react quickly enough to recover control of the aircraft, which was diving, while trying to restore airflow to his mask.
But the facts in the Air Force report don’t prove that Haney kept his mask in place in the “full up” position during the incident, the IG report said.
The report also failed to properly document how the Air Force concluded that lack of oxygen, gravity-induced unconsciousness and other physiological factors did not cause the crash, the IG report said.
Additionally, the report doesn’t explain how what investigators concluded were the main contributors to the crash actually worked together to cause it.
“Failure to adequately explain this interrelationship calls into question the AIB Statement of Opinion regarding the cause of the mishap,” the IG report said.
The Air Force should take another run at making sense of the November 2010 crash, the IG report said.
“We recommend that the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force reevaluate the AIB report and take appropriate action in light of the findings ...," the report said.
In response, the Air Force said it had reviewed the IG’s findings but upheld the crash report’s conclusions.